Milton graduates leave principal with reminder of their spirit

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Neil Johnson
Monday, June 10, 2013

— Milton High School Principal Jeremy Bilhorn will have to ask school maintenance workers to build him a new office display case this summer.

It’ll need to be big enough for hundreds of Matchbox cars—parting gifts that nearly all students handed him as they walked across the stage to receive their diplomas at Sunday’s graduation.

It was the final punchline tied to this year’s Milton senior class prank—a perennial rite for outgoing graduates at the high school.

Nice joke. Now move it.

Before Sunday’s graduation ceremony, student Alexa Anderson showed off her miniature car, a hot pink 1966 Dodge Charger. Anderson said the significance is rooted in a May 23 practical joke that the senior class cooked up.

The seniors parked their cars all around the periphery of the student parking lot, blocking access to the lot for underclassmen. No other students could get in. That morning, seniors had the run of the parking lot.

The gag irked school administration and Milton police, Anderson said. School and police officials suggested they would ticket every student for parking illegally unless they moved their cars immediately.

“So we got out there and moved all the cars in about 10 minutes. One guy was at a tennis tournament. We had to get his brother to get over here and move his car for him,” Anderson said.

Bilhorn, in an address Sunday, said the students’ parking lot trick was the best senior prank ever at the high school.

That’s saying something, considering other dandies, such as the year students stole dozens of cafeteria trays and hid them in a ceiling or the time graduates honored a school administrator’s newborn baby by blanketing the administrator with hundreds of pacifiers.

In another address, student John Toberman told the 208 graduates that what counts perhaps most is not a student’s achievements or grade-point average; it’s the mark the student leaves behind and the ties he or she created that last long after the graduate leaves the school parking lot for the last time.

“What you’ll find you’re left with … is home,” Toberman said.

Country and bagpipes?

Milton High School is a little bit country and a little bit classic. At least, musically speaking, it was on Sunday.

The high school band and choir treated graduates and families inside the gymnasium to a blend of music, including a choir arrangement of Garth Brooks’ country hit “The River” sung by the choir. The band played a symphonic arrangement of “Highland Cathedral,” a song originally written for bagpipe.

Some students in the performances played and sang in their caps and gowns.

As choir director Mike Swengel played piano to accompany “The River,” students belted out a fitting bit of advice from the song’s lyrics: “Don’t you sit upon the shoreline and say you’re satisfied … Choose to chance the rapids and dare to dance the tide … ”

Fill the bucket

Principal Bilhorn tipped his hat to outgoing elementary Principal and interim Superintendent Theresa Rusch, telling students they should follow her lead when it comes to giving to the community.

Rusch is retiring at the end of this school year. Bilhorn said it would have been easy for Rusch to fade into retirement, but that’s not what happened.

Instead, Rusch stepped into the role of interim superintendent when Mike Garrow resigned late last year. She did so because she was asked, he said.

Amid the extra work, the stress of a new post and upheaval and financial uncertainty in the district, Rusch also stepped into another role.

On request of the city council, she filled a vacancy on the council this spring. It’s a post that pays little and demands dozens of hours of legwork a week and scores of meetings a month.

Again, Bilhorn said, Rusch stepped up simply because she was asked to help.

Bilhorn said students have two choices: They can focus solely on setting and achieving their own personal agendas, or, like Rusch, they can give back to others.

“Be a person who fills the buckets in this community,” he said.

Last updated: 7:54 am Monday, July 29, 2013

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