GREENVILLE — Kimberly Kleck attended Grattan Academy 13 years and Maria Heffron attended six years, while other students like Dena Campbell and numerous foreign exchange students attended only one year.
But it didn’t matter Wednesday night when they started — there were 32 seniors together, wearing red and black caps and gowns, all graduating together.
It was standing room-only in the high school gymnasium as family members and friends came to proudly watch their senior receive the coveted diploma.
“It has been a long and hilly ride sometimes,” said valedictorian Tiffany Hopkins, who plans on attending Lake Superior State University to study political science before proceeding on to law school.
The musical seniors joined in the high school choir and band, to perform one last time as Grattan Academy students, performing “Fanfare,” “When I Was Your Man,” “Hallelujah” and “Chorale Prelude on a German Hymn Tune.”
Principal Tom Kreiner welcomed the students and offered one last piece of advice.
“Get out of town. Leave. Leave and go somewhere else, at least for three years,” said Kreiner, “Then come back to us with new ideas. Take time to explore and live with no regrets and don’t say, ‘I wish I would have …’”
Co-salutatorian Alexandra Townsend said she didn’t think she would have many friends when she came to Grattan, but now, with the numerous exchange students in the graduating class, she has friends in five different countries around the world.
Co-salutatorian Maria Heffron said Grattan offered opportunities for sports and band and choir, “things that make people think I am good at sports and that I am smart, but I am not. It only looks like I am.”
Former high school English/language arts teacher Mark Foley was the keynote speaker, who advised the graduating seniors to “solve your own problems and I’ll solve mine. Don’t blame the government or your family or your friends, but take as your mantra the slogan ‘I can do it.’ Work hard, make smart decisions and reap the rewards God has bestowed on you.”
Hopkins expressed some of the emotions the seniors felt.
“I’m happy, but sad,” she said, “I’m ready to go on to college, but I will miss the people, the staff, and my friends here. Grattan is smaller than some schools, but then you get closer to each other and it feels more like a family. It is very emotional to leave.”