Rain moves excitement of Craig graduation ceremony indoors

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Neil Johnson
Friday, June 7, 2013

— The specter of rain halted plans for an outdoor graduation ceremony at Monterey Stadium in Janesville, but 373 Craig High School graduates and their families carried the excitement indoors Thursday.

At the Craig High School gymnasium, the default rain location for the graduation, so many people packed the place that the school had to set up a projection screen in the auditorium so that additional spectators could watch the ceremony.

As scores watched the graduation from auditorium seats, the crowd’s shouts echoed from the gym through the hallways, accenting the auditorium’s loudspeakers like surround sound.

In the gym, even the tiniest guests got into the action. As the blur of blue-gowned students marched in past the crowded bleachers to the strains of “Pomp and Circumstance,” a toddler on a parent’s shoulder waved his hands as though he was conducting the high school band.

If an indoor ceremony was anything of a letdown for students or their families, it wasn’t apparent Thursday. Some students in the crowd let fly with a beach ball to punctuate a speech at the ceremony. Others were armed with cans of aerosol string.

Two of the class of 2013’s 15 co-valedictorians forged ahead with plans for a bold final act on the ceremony’s center stage.

Kirsten Triller and Sarah Kaveggia staged a dramatic opening to their joint address to students during which they fumbled and flung their speech scripts nervously and feigned the sort of overexcitement and hyperventilation that can only be calmed by the steadying hand of a best friend.

It was a convincing put-on by the pair, a visual gag to deliver their message to students: What matters most is love—love of ice cream, love of Starbucks coffee, love of cruising Janesville’s Milton Avenue strip—and most of all, love of friends and enemies alike.

The commencement program was marked with a pen-and-ink sketch on its cover of young hands flinging mortarboards in the air. Adult speakers reinforced the sentiment with words. Thursday was all about the students, Principal Alison Bjoin and former Principal Michael Kuehne said.

Kuehne told the students, whom he first saw as incoming freshmen before retiring as principal, that he considered the students friends. He told the students that he missed them and missed learning about all the things happening in their lives.

Bjoin said she drew inspiration for her address to outgoing high schools seniors from the unique handprints that they painted on the walls of “Senior Hallway.” It’s a rite of passage at the high school

“You’ll leave a mark that can never be painted over,” she told the students.

Moving inside

Students and families had to switch to Plan B—an inside ceremony at the Craig High School Gymnasium.

As students lined up in a big loop along the walls of the school field house, they seemed to roll with change in plans and the bum weather.

They talked about their plans, showed off their clothing styles and ended the wait before their rainy-day graduation with some cool, cool handshakes.

Different plans

Student Zachary Jensen said he was a bit bummed about the ceremony being moved indoors.

“I’d rather be outside, but what can you do?” he said, sipping on a Propel flavored water drink. Jensen said he wondered how many families could fit in the high school gym.

“For me, a family reunion’s like 57 people.” he said.

Jensen said after graduation, he plans to move into a Janesville apartment with some buddies and work out a plan to become a chef.

He had a blue medal hanging around his neck. He said it wasn’t an honors medal; it was a gift from the district, and each graduate got one. He shrugged nonchalantly.

“I don’t know, it’s just something they gave us to wear,” Jensen said.

Student Olivya Martine stood fanning herself in line in the fieldhouse, adorned with cords for high honors and her involvement in Spanish club and the school yearbook.

Martine said she plans to attend UW-Rock County to earn a degree in criminal justice. Then, for her, it’s on to Chicago to continue schooling.

She said she has always wanted to live in a major city, and there’s just something about Chicago.

“I don’t know. It’s just bigger. I’m thinking … big opportunity,” Martine said.

It’s kind of about the shoes

Students assembled at Thursday’s ceremony formed an army of blue caps and gowns, but the real flair was in the footwear.

Co-valedictorian Ethan C. Reilly had on a pair of bright yellow and blue high-top Reebok sneakers.

“They’re for comfort … and style,” Reilly said.

Student Gabby Ames had on a pair of turquoise and orange cowboy boots.

“They go good with my outfit,” Ames said. “I’m a princess.”

Other top footwear students wore at the ceremony: a pair of black, snakeskin-print oxford shoes with shiny gold toe-plates; a pair of gray, skateboard-worn low-top Vans sneakers; bare feet (hopefully, only bare before the ceremony); and sparkly, red-sequined high heels.

Give me some skin

Style, creativity and casual cool progressed through the hallway as students left behind the stuffy, noisy corral in the fieldhouse and headed down the hall to the ceremony awaiting them in the school gymnasium.

As students moved into the fieldhouse, teachers in the hallway offered each a chance to give them high-fives and handshakes.

Some student high-five highlights: a low hand slap that started with a spin maneuver and ended with a bit of double-handed finger twinkling; a couple of knuckle-popping fist bumps; and a too-slow, too-cool high-five fake out

One student gave a teacher a soul handshake with three separate and distinct hand gyrations. The teacher was not quite ready for it.

Students filtered by until finally the last one had high-fived on past.

The loud murmuring blur of Craig graduates then headed off to the gym, snaking their way through the school’s hallways one last time.

Last updated: 7:55 am Monday, July 29, 2013

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