Belding High School graduates 140 seniors

Posted by Cory Smith • Last Updated 1:33 pm on Friday, May 24 2013

A total of 140 seniors at Belding High School sat together in the Redskin Arena gymnasium together a final time Thursday, in front of teachers, family and friends before graduating as the class of 2013. — Daily News/Cory Smith


BELDING — This was a year of many firsts for graduating seniors at Belding High School.

A new arena with an indoor track, auditorium, cafeteria and commons area, sports facilities — the list goes on and on.

Through a year of constant transformation, where the very school they attended changed dramatically before their eyes, the 140 graduates experienced their final moment as members of the student body Thursday evening before walking out of the school one last time as official alumni.

“Tonight, one of our last memories as Belding High School students will be closing a small chapter of our lives to open a new chapter,” senior class president Kendra Wekenman said. “This accomplishment would not be possible without the continued support from our teachers, family, friends and classmates.”

Belding High School graduating seniors Brianna Vander Ploeg and Mitchel Dykla, walk arm-in-am together Thursday evening during the opening ceremony to celebrate the graduating class of 2013. — Daily News/Cory Smith

And those teachers, family, friends and classmates were on hand as the new Redskin Arena gymnasium was filled to capacity, with many parents with cameras and cell phones in hand rapidly taking photos, observing from the second-story indoor track.

Class speaker Emily Sluiter encouraged her classmates to move on and “be the best that you can be.”

“Growing up at Belding High School has brought each of us friends, irreplaceable relationships and memories that will last a lifetime,” she said. “Most of us never thought this day would come so quickly, but it’s finally here. Tonight we are welcoming the adventure that awaits us through the door to our future.”

Sluiter asked of her classmates, “Where will your path take you?

“I encourage each of you to think about the direction you are about to take your life and find a reason for which you live,” she said.

Before diplomas could be given, tassels could be turned and caps could be thrown, guest speaker and Belding High School alumnus Dean Cooper, an assistant coach with the Houston Rockets NBA basketball franchise, had a few final words of wisdom to deliver to the new graduates.

“If you have an electronic device, a cell phone, Blackberry, leave it on,” he told the students. “I might say something you find interesting and you want to use later or I might do something completely bizarre and you and your friends can have a good chuckle about it later.”

Cooper’s initial comment seemed like a light joke, but he landed on a serious note.

Graduate Brandon Hoople hugs school board trustee Andrea Booker as she hands him his diploma Thursday evening during the graduation ceremony at Belding High School. — Daily News/Cory Smith

“You can do a lot of things on those devices, you have Internet access almost all the time,” he said. “But this commencement, it’s about something you can’t find on the Internet. What you can’t find on the internet is your purpose. You have to go out and find that.”

From there, Cooper asked the students to refine that purpose and cherish it.

“To this point in your life, most of your decisions, or a large portion of them, have been made for you,” he said. “You have the chance now to define what your purpose is. What gives you fire. What makes you get up every day. Once you find it, cherish it. When you find that purpose, live in the moment. Be great at what it is you’re doing now. Invest in ‘now.’”

Cooper stepped off the stage and gathered with the students to lead them in one last rally cheer of “Go Redskins!”

Students then walked across the stage a final time and received their diplomas as High School Principal Brett Zuver read their names.

In a final collaborative act, the students turned their tassels from right to left, acknowledged their achievement with a smile and threw their caps high into the air.

The seniors of Belding High School officially became alumni of their alma mater.

The 140 members of the 2013 graduating class of Belding High School throw their caps into the air to celebrate their achievement Thursday evening. — Daily News/Cory Smith

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