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Ceremony a time for goodbyes, new beginnings

June 10, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA.

As the hour of his final graduation ceremony as superintendent of the Chambersburg Area School District approached Friday, Edwin Sponseller admitted he was nervous.

"I'm a little nervous about the weather, mostly," said Sponseller, who will retire at the end of the month after 18 years as superintendent. "I think brevity is important tonight."

There were some brief afternoon showers prior to the ceremony at Bus Peters Field, but a westerly breeze brought clear skies for what would be Sponseller's 26th consecutive appearance on stage as either superintendent or assistant superintendent.

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The 571 members of the Chambersburg Area Senior High School class of 2006 marched six abreast through a gauntlet of camera and camcorder-carrying family and friends who took aim at loved ones through LCD screens. In a miracle of brevity, the ceremony lasted just a shade over an hour.

Assistant Principal Paul Ruhlman singled out one student in his remarks to the students - Janelle Fisher, the Cal Ripken Jr. of school attendance. Ruhlman said Fisher had attended 2,160 consecutive days of school - a total of 11,880 hours "without missing a single hour."

"Over the last 20 days, I purposely went to the cafeteria to see if she was present," Ruhlman said.

"Yes, work, but don't lose sight of living," valedictorian Laura DeLorenzo advised her classmates. "It's not only the scenery you miss, but going too fast."

The handing out of diplomas was interrupted briefly by one graduate, who stripped off his gown to reveal he only was wearing a pair of shorts and fake pant legs. He headed off in a run, and quickly scaled the fence at one end of the field.

With time to kill before an all-night party in the high school gymnasium, students and parents mused about the meaning of this night in their lives.

"It's definitely time for it to be over. You've got to grow up and move on," Caitlin Lacy said. Graduation speakers often talk about this being their first step into the real world, and Lacy's will be to study overseas in London for her first semester of college.

"She'll do fine. I know she will," said her mother, Marsha Quesenberry. "Childhood went so fast. That's what's going through my head."

Tara Hege will head to the University of South Carolina this fall. Like many students, she said she will miss her friends. What she will not miss is, "How small the town is. Rumors are all around the place."

"We're just proud of her and a little scared about what she's heading for," said her father, Tim Hege. "She's ready. I don't know if we are."

"I'm thinking about separation anxiety," said her mother, Peggy Hege.

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