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Grads appear as one, but ideas differ

May 25, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

Click here for more photos of this and other Tri-State area graduation ceremonies

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.VA - As they filed into the auditorium of the Butcher Athletic Center at Shepherd University, the graduating members of Hedgesville High School's senior class appeared as one unit.

Faces were almost indistinguishable in the sea of blue gowns and mortarboards, and the class members stood, sat and cheered as one.

But before the ceremony began, the thoughts and emotions of the 345 graduating seniors were as varied as the names on their diplomas.

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"I don't want to graduate," Stacey Walden said. "All my friends are here, and I live with my parents for free."

"It's good to get out," said Joshua VonGersdorff, who plans to go to Shepherd University in the fall. "It's a pretty exciting time."

Like many of his classmates, VonGersdorff was less worried about his long-term future Saturday morning than he was about the next two hours.

"I am nervous about walking out in front of so many people," he said. "I hope I don't fall on my face."

Hannah Walter, who was next to VonGersdorff in the line of graduates that stretched down the hallway, agreed.

"My mouth is dry. And I'm really hungry," Walter said. "I hope I don't do anything stupid."

"Oh, my God," said Chelsey Worrell when a supervisor barked out "three minutes!" to the students waiting to enter the auditorium.

As stressful as it was for graduating students, the ceremony was just as nerve-rattling for teachers and administrators tasked with making sure the school's 107th commencement went off without a hitch.

"It's really, really stressful," English teacher Judy Shultz said. "There's not enough seating, you're making sure people have their caps, are dressed correctly, know where to stand. You have people paying for pictures at the last minute."

Shultz stopped talking to throw something in a nearby trash can.

"It's the only time it's OK for a student to spit gum in my hand," said Shultz as the doors to the auditorium opened and the seniors walked to their seats and listened to classmates and teachers talk about the future in hopeful terms.

"The stress and exhaustion of high school is over," class President Jordan McCann said. "But remember, this is just the beginning. And it's said that it's more important to look ahead than behind."

Principal Donald Dellinger offered a quote from American philosopher William James.

"'Man can alter his life by altering his thinking,'" Dellinger said. "You have the opportunity to change your life by simply taking a positive attitude with you."

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