By Patrick Winderl/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
"Life is full of tears, smiles and memories. The tears will dry, the smiles fade, but the memories will last forever."
The class motto for the Havre High Class of 2003 never seemed more appropriate than during its graduation ceremony Sunday afternoon. All of them smiled and a few cried, often in some combination of the two.
During the two-hour event, which featured some unconventional wisdom and an electric guitar, 157 students from Havre High took the stage to receive their diplomas.
The graduates entered the gymnasium at the high school to the traditional "Pomp and Circumstance" opening processional performed the Havre High School Symphonic Band. The band, directed by Ron Coons, rendered several songs during the commencement, including "Portraits" by Jim Collona.
A number of graduating seniors participated in the performance. Garbed in Pony blue caps and gowns, the students joined their younger classmates for their final high school performance. Asking seniors to play during their graduation is a tradition that Havre High has done for years, Coons said.
"We lost some great students this year," he said today, adding he is confidant the younger students will step up to fill their shoes.
After new student body president Samantha Seidel led the audience in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, Havre Public Schools Superintendent Kirk Miller made a brief speech.
"This class represents the continuing tradition of excellence in Havre Public Schools," he said. Miller, a Havre High graduate and former teacher, said it was "a pleasure and a privilege" to attend the ceremony. In addition to extending congratulations to the graduates, he also recognized two teachers from Havre High who end their tenures this year.
English department head Axel Schmaing and industrial arts teacher Dave Barta are both retiring from Havre High, Schmaing after 35 years of service.
Miller introduced graduation speaker Jim Magera, a history teacher at the high school.
"I was told to keep (the speech) short and funny," Magera said when he addressed the crowd. "I've been short my whole life, and now I'll try to be funny."
Magera offered the graduates some advice from Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich from an article printed in 1997. The article subsequently became a popular song by musician Baz Luhrmann.
"Wear sunscreen," Magera said. "Keep your old love letters and throw away your old bank statements. Don't be reckless with other people's hearts and don't put up with people who are reckless with yours."
After Magera's speech, the audience was again regaled with music, this time by the Havre High A Capella Choir. The choir performed the 1975 smash hit "Bohemian Rhapsody," written by rock icon Freddie Mercury.
Accompanying the voices of the choir were Havre High junior Shane Howard on the electric guitar, and graduates Dusty Chichosz on the drums and Chad Zuelke on the electric bass. The thunderous performance was well accepted by audience, which seemed captivated by both the vocalists and the instruments.
Next, Havre High principal James Donovan presented the class of 2003 to the audience.
"It would be hard to say this is the best class I've ever seen, but then it would be hard to say it is not," he said.
Diplomas were presented by school trustees Jim Heberly, Denise Thompson, Dave Milam and Kathie Newell, who shook the hands of each graduate as they took the stage. Each student paused for Miller to flip the tassel on their caps, a final symbolic gesture signaling the end of their high school careers.
After all 157 students received their diplomas, they were again presented to the audience, this time to cheers and thunderous applause. The students filed out of the gym as Coons led the symphonic band in a final song.
The newly graduated students met outside with friends and family, exchanging hugs and handshakes. The students displayed mixed emotions, appearing both sad and excited.
"Things will never be the same," one said while holding back tears.