A diploma dance: Parker seniors ride waves of emotion into their futures

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Frank Schultz
Saturday, June 8, 2013

— Parents cheered, horns blew, Silly String flew and beach balls bounced among the graduates—before teachers confiscated them.

In perfect weather at Monterey Stadium, the Parker High School Class of 2013 graduated Friday.

The ceremony had a theme, the Latin phrase carpe diem, which means “seize the day.” Most speeches mentioned this.

Valedictorian Nicole May’s speech recalled beachwear day at school last fall, when a malfunction caused the fire alarm to sound. Students found themselves shivering in a December sleet storm.

Students and staff banded together with spare clothing and blankets to help those most exposed to the elements, May recalled.

“Together, we seized the day. Together, we made a difference in each other’s lives,” May said.

May said she hoped the graduates would remember that day and continue to do what is right.

Valedictorian Alison Wagener quoted from the movie that made “carpe diem” famous, “Dead Poets Society”: “No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.”

Meanwhile, 324 graduates waited, each with a story already written and many more to write. Among them:

-- “I hated high school but now that I see everyone in their caps and gowns, I’m going to miss it,” said Zachary Moon. “I’m excited for the future, though,” he added.

Moon said he begins his new career next week. He has an apprenticeship set up with a tattoo artist in Milwaukee.

-- Thomas Bordner was also excited about his future. He plans to learn auto mechanics at Blackhawk Technical College. He wants to work on classic cars but also is keenly interested in alternative-fuel technologies.

“I’m a gearhead all the way, ever since I was 5 years old, seeing my grandfather working on a 1952 Kaiser-Frazer,” Bordner said.

-- Brittany Woodley plans to attend UW-Rock County and then UW-Whitewater to become a special-education teacher, “because I love kids, especially those (who) need help more than others.”

-- Kaylee Yanchik plans to attend Carroll University and get into neo-natal nursing. She was glad high school is over.

“I’ve just lived in Janesville my whole life. I want something new, and I want to do what I want to do,” Yanchik said.

Following are some scenes from the graduation.

Last pep speech

Longtime teacher and football/track and field coach Joe Dye addressed the graduates in a booming voice that has worked well for his teams over the years. Dye is retiring this month.

Dye exhorted the grads to remember: “You are a Viking! When there are challenges, Vikings battle! … When the road ends and you see a clear expanse … of ocean, Vikings sail across it! When there are storms, Vikings weather them!”

Four years in a nutshell

Among the speakers was graduate Danielle Fugate.

“During the last four years we have worked hard, played hard and experienced the good times and bad together,” Fugate said. “We have gone through the wins and losses together, shared our greatest memories, encountered coaches who have pushed us to excel, found teachers who have inspired us and met our best friends.”

Mexican pride

Julio Sanchez had a Superman cape hanging outside of his robe. In the middle of the “S” he had added the word “Mexican.”

Julio said he had worn a cape every Friday since last year, proclaiming them “Cape Fridays.” He later added “Mexican” in honor of his family’s roots.

Bouncing back

Tyler Jelinek was in an accident just weeks before graduation and spent a week in the hospital. He had cerebral damage, but most symptoms have cleared up, he said. Strangely, he lost his sense of smell and doesn’t know if it will return.

Jelinek sported a T-shirt they made for him upon his return to school. The shirt contained the phrase he had made famous among his peers: “Jelinek rules.”

Before the ceremony, Jelinek had his robe open, showing off the T-shirt, with his robe sleeves rolled up and one of his honors cords tied as a belt.

“I don’t think they’re going to let me walk across the stage this way, but I thought that if I’m going to graduate, I might as well look good doing it,” he said.

He was wearing the robe in the traditional fashion by the time he got his diploma.

Fond farewell

Two more Parker teachers who are retiring this year are Carolyn Fisher and Julie Bouton. They attended the ceremony.

“It’s been fun. I’ve enjoyed the kids, and I’ve (taught) many of their parents, so it has been one big, happy family,” said Fisher, who taught 43 years, 30 of them at Parker.

Bouton has taught 37 years, 33 at Parker.

“I’m going to miss it. It has been the most wonderful career I could imagine,” Bouton said. “I’ll miss the kids. They kept me young.”


Teachers were positioned to move in quickly to quash inappropriate behavior. They took away the beach balls that popped up before and after diplomas were handed out. They also went after a blow-up doll that bounced in the crowd of graduates at the end of the ceremony.

The doll had some anatomically correct features that were not appropriate.

A teacher finally grabbed the doll, eliciting boos from all over the stadium. The teacher tried to empty it of air. Another teacher brought a sweater to cover it.

Daughter No. 5

Janesville School Board member Bill Sodemann also spoke. He noted he had spoken in four previous ceremonies, each time one of his daughters graduated. Daughter No. 5 graduated Friday. Sodemann is not done, if he continues to be re-elected. He has two more children who are working their way through school.

Crib sheet

It never hurts to make yourself a reminder, and that goes for young graduates as well as older adults. Taped to the floor on the podium was an 8-by-10-inch piece of paper. It featured an image of a pair of shoes and said: “Diploma presenter, please stand here!”

It included this note: “Let the graduate come to you. Shake hands and give diploma at the same time.”

It worked like a charm.

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

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