by Adam Gruenewald
While relatively small in number compared to past classes, the future looked bright for a total of 68 Central High School students as they received their diplomas in a packed gymnasium on Friday night.
Addressing the gym full of peers, family, educators, and supporters, Joan Fuhrman welcomed those in the gym and congratulated her fellow graduates.
“Without the support of each and every person here and those who are unable to attend, we wouldn’t have made it this far,” she said. “Tonight marks a point in time where we say goodbye to the place that brought us all together. Many of us have known each other since elementary school and it is hard to fathom that we won’t be seeing each other walking through the hallways anymore. I am thankful for the memories I have made at Central, and am even more excited to see what the future has in store.”
Highlighting the celebratory festivities were performances by the Central High School band, who performed several traditional numbers, as well as the Concert Choir members who gave their rendition of “Who Can Sail Without the Wind.”
Keeping part with Central’s annual tradition, student speakers Mikayla Eshleman, valedictorian Emma Panning and salutatorian Kellen Erpenbach expressed their feelings on the past, present and future of their graduating peers.
Of the graduates, school counselor Caitlin Featherman shared that 36 of the graduates plan on attending a four-year college, 27 plan on attending a two-year vocational or technical college, four plan on enlisting in the military and two will go on to work.
Featherman also highlighted that 33 seniors won local scholarships, national scholarship and grants or private scholarships, totaling over $335,359.
Prior to embarking on their future, Eshleman reflected on the past, including early years at Central Elementary highlighted by fall festivals, track and field days and cherry bomb during recess before sharing her memories of Middle School dances and other activities and High School highlights.
“Everything that we worked so hard to accomplish is finally paying off,” said Eshleman. “All of the memories I have actually don’t involve learning at all, just moments outside of the classroom that I didn’t think would be important then, but are the things I actually remember.”
She also touted the benefits of being a student at Central, adding that even those memories will fade as they have the chance for a fresh start after receiving their diplomas.
“Attending Central is something very special,” she said. “We’ve been present with many opportunities here that many students at larger schools don’t have. You can join any activity you want and do anything you want to do, if you chose to… I am excited to see where the future will lead us.”
Captivating, and educating, the audience with some scientific knowledge, Panning, an aspiring optometrist, used the different parts of the eye to address the present.
Comparing her classmates feelings to parts of the eye, opened the window for some humor as well as some deep thoughts. In her brief speech, she drew upon the parts of the eye, whether it was the extremely strong and durable sclera and her peers overcoming challenges and the cornea revealing sensitivity.
“This is an emotional time for many of us,” she said. “We are not kids anymore and are growing up and going off in different directions.”
Continuing, Panning spoke about the transparent lens that helps the eye focus, the retina for visual clarity and the extra ocular muscles surrounding the eye for movement that provides support like the family and friends of the graduates.
“Right now we are at the peak of our high school careers,” she said. “Everything we have done over the last four years has led up to this moment and we all should feel proud.”
In addition to sharing the successes of himself and his teammates, friends and classmates, Erpenbach addressed the future.
“The easy part is over,” he said. “I am proud of our accomplishments as the Class of 2017. We have grown into adulthood and now the hard part begins. Nothing is promised to us, life is not easy or fair.”
Assuring his fellow graduates of the path to success, Erpenbach stressed the importance for him and his classmates to have big dreams and set lofty goals, work hard and maintain a positive attitude into the future.
“Earlier life owes us nothing and it will not be easy,” he said. “Sadly we will face many difficult times in our life. During those difficult times our attitude, belief in God and our family will get us through it. We all like to be around people who display a positive attitude and make sure you are one of those people… Now it is our responsibility to go out there and earn what is ours. Good luck to all of you, my classmates, and go Raiders.”
In his closing address, Carter Clemensen briefly thanked attendees, Central Schools staff and his friends before leading his classmates in the flipping their tassels, signifying their graduate status, which led to the tossing of caps and joyous celebrations.
Follow Adam Gruenewald on Twitter @adamgruenewald.