ATLANTA - Members of the Atlanta Community High School graduating class of 2014 took their last walk into the school gymnasium as seniors Friday night. The 24 seniors worked hard throughout high school overcoming obstacles and excelling in academics and sports to reach the culmination of all their efforts; graduation.
Superintendent Donald Haskin Jr. opened the ceremony with reference to a familiar tune with a hidden lesson.
"You all know about the itsy bitsy spider," Haskin said after he had the seniors recite the familiar lyrics. "There is a life lesson to be learned from that song. In your years here at Atlanta Community Schools we have tried to prepare you to be successful members of society, but there will be storms that come, just like the itsy bitsy spider remember this little song, be like that itsy bitsy spider. Dry off, and head out again, hopefully a little wiser from the experience."
Haskin also talked about running back Walter Payton, again encouraging the graduates to get back up every time they are knocked down.
"Always get back up," Haskin said.
He presented each graduate with a gold dollar to represent their first dollar earned as a graduate of Atlanta Community High School. Guest speaker Ron Marlatt gave the graduates his story after high school, hoping to instill a little wisdom from his experiences and show the graduates that even the best made plans can change.
"You will find your way," Marlatt said. "You will run into obstacles, but you will overcome them. I'm certain of that. Don't be surprised if you get to school and change your mind."
Marlatt told the class about his travels through working as a packaging engineer, and the familiar companies such as Kellogg, Quaker and Pepsi, encouraging them to travel whenever they can and be perceptive of the world around them.
"Work first and all of your accomplishments will follow," he said. "As you wander around through life, no matter what your goal, keep your eye upon the donut, not upon the hole. Don't worry, because worry is a waste of time."
The class put together a movie of their time growing up and in high school, and shared it with the audience.
Haskin and school board Vice President Chad Brown presented the seniors with their diploma as they each crossed the stage. The accomplishments of each one of the seniors was highlighted as they shook hands with staff members, and met their families at the end of their walk.
Salutatorian Tristen Juergens gave her address, citing memories the class has shared over the last four years, and encouraged the graduates to follow their dreams.
"All the hard work and the fun we've had has led up to this moment," Juergens said. "A few years from now, we'll all be spread out doing different things, and we will be completely different people, but we'll always have this one day in common we have finally become a family."
Juergens thanked the staff and administration, family and friends for the support they have shown the class over the years, and for their guidance.
Valdictorian Larry Krzeminski also thanked everyone who was involved in the successes of the class, and told his classmates to remember the good memories they have made throughout the years.
"It's the good experiences and the fun times we've had in our classes that we will miss," Krzeminski said. "We made it here and no one can take it from us. We've all accomplished so much. We all have memories that will be with us forever. Graduation isn't only a time to look back but also a time to look forward. I believe we are all prepared to go off into the real world and make a difference."
The audience was treated to one last song by the seniors in the band, who played a version of the popular song "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen.
Senior Douglas Wilderman and Rachel Gerrie played and sang "Simple Man" as a tribute to the class.
Senior class president Jacob Wojtoviets had the honor of leading the turning of the tassels for the class as they became AHS alumni.
Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.