Big show of support at DES graduation

Richard DuPertuis
Dunsmuir Elementary School graduates 
filed from the gymnasium as brand new high school students following the commencement ceremony Thursday evening.

The crowd attending the Dunsmuir Elementary School graduation ceremony left few seats available in the gymnasium last Thursday evening. In a show of support for the 10 eighth graders who delivered speeches representing all 22 graduating class members, family and friends frequently burst into sustained applause. They were equally enthusiastic over the welcoming remarks by principal Kale Riccomini.

“In these tough economic times, I am asked, 'What's good about being an elementary school principal?'” he said. “My answer is, 'The kids.'”

Finishing, Riccomini introduced graduating student Alexandra Hagge as the mistress of ceremonies, who would in turn introduce each graduate before he or she delivered her or his speech.

The first speaker, Michael Biggerstaff, exhorted his classmates to always look to the future. “I'm not saying, 'Drop your friends and spend your whole life being a nerd,'” he explained. “I'm saying, 'Have fun, but while having that fun, make the right choices and keep yourself on the path to your dream job.'”

Chelsea Helms viewed the memories from her years in the school as “footprints on our hearts.”

She said, “These memories take us beyond being the Class of 2010; they make us a family.”

Jaime Coe shared her feelings over the impending separation from her best friend since kindergarten. “Alex, I am going to miss you so much next year; I don't know where my place is without you.”

For a moment, she was unable to continue, overcome with tears. The silence was filled by applause and cheers from the audience until she was able to finish with, “It will be a very difficult journey; however, you will forever be my best friend.”

At this point, Hagge briefly interrupted the speeches for two scheduled scholarship presentations. School awards of $50 each went to Biggerstaff and classmate Tayler Shuler. To her volunteer students, presenter Pat O'Connor said, “We couldn't have done it without you.”

Resuming the speeches, Sean Eastis explored his belief that choices made in life create the path to a great future, that it isn't about intelligence. “In fact, you don't have to be the sharpest tool in the shed to  be successful,” he said.

Jacob Dutra described his educational journey, beginning in preschool as three year olds with fellow graduates Helms, Hagge and C.J. Palmer. He recited anecdotes, one per school year up to eighth grade.

Lilah Saverimuttu revisited the notion of classmates being like family, and took it a step further stating, “They influence you in a lot of ways, but you don't get to pick who you are related to just like you don't get to choose who's in your class... The people on this stage have grown into such amazing, kind, funny and unique people,” she said.

Tayler Shuler honored the work and devotion that she and her classmates realize this night as graduation.

Citing specific lessons learned, she argued the case for her class being prepared for the responsibilities to come. “When you think about all the algebra, science, language arts and history homework we have had to do, it really adds up,” she said. “We are prepared to embrace the future with open arms and a smile on our face.”

Again Hagge paused the speeches, this time for a long list of awards. The Pancho Fairhurst Scholarship was given to Palmer; Outstanding Citizen went to Saverimuttu, Writing Achievement to Shuler; Most Improved Student was Marki Stibi; Reading Achievement was awarded to Helms and Christian LeGuellec; the Physical Education award went to Palmer, the Fred Vogel Memorial to Stibi and Chris Headley; the Science Achievement honor was given to Jon Perkins; the Algebra Achievement award went to Corrin Web, who also received the Siskiyou Afterschool For Everyone (SAFE) Award, along with Stibi and Headley; finally, the Presidential Fitness award was given to Palmer and Stibi.

The next speech, delivered by Jon Perkins, shared three exceptional memories he would take with him from Dunsmuir Elementary School: Nick's third grade chocolate milk volcano, Nick's parting gift of a stink bomb in class and Ms. Davis' prank with a fart machine.

“A moment lasts all of a second, but a memory lasts forever,” he said. He closed by thanking music teacher Mike Wright, science teacher Rich Belzer and teacher Danielle Davis.

Chris Headley, addressing his classmates, spoke of tonight being the start of a new chapter of their lives. He stressed that during the years he had attended school here, he came to see his classmates as family. “We were always ready to lend a helping hand,” he said.

“We motivated and supported each other... We at Dunsmuir Elementary School have something special. We have compassion.”

The last speech, read by Corinn Web, had been written by classmate Christian LeGuellec.

Through  Web’s voice, he invited the listener to look at the world we see today, with its violence, pollution and destruction. Then he urged visioning as it could be. “Take out the hatred; take out the pain; take out the violence, the racism and the pollution.” she read.

“Take out all these negatives and replace them with kindness, acceptance and compassion. Now what do you have? A better world.”

He reassured people who feared students, who feared the worst, that he saw a spark, a glimmer of hope, that lies within his generation. He saw great minds, enders of war, great musicians and those who inspired compassion and acceptance. He finished with, “And to those of you who think teenagers are just immature and ignorant, remember this, that we are the future.”