Commencement bittersweet for some graduating seniors

By Bryan Richardson

Friends and family gathered Sunday afternoon at Bramlage Coliseum to watch approximately 400 Manhattan High seniors become the 98th class to graduate.

The day for seniors was filled with excitement yet bitter-sweet feelings on the end of their time at high school.

Caroline Fry, a future K-State Classy Cat, said it was exciting to graduate with the people she had grown up with. “We’re all really excited for each other,” she said. “I’m a townie, so I lived here my whole life.”

Fry said she is looking forward to figuring what she’s going to do; she’s planning to major in communication sciences and disorders. “I know what I like, but I’m excited to see what I’ll have for the world,” she said.

Taylor Hilgers, who plans to play football at K-State, said he’ll miss seeing his best friends every day and playing with his teammates. “This came pretty fast,” he said. “I remember freshman year going in the first day pretty nervous and now graduation is already here.”

Fry and Hilgers were among the scholarship recipients in the class, which had a total of more than $1 million in scholarships.

Student speaker Chris Davis gave Hilgers a special mention during his speech, remembering a fifth-grade dodge ball incident that left Davis’s nose slightly crooked. “I’m very honored to be speaker, or poet in this case, though I have to say I’m terribly sorry you have to look at this face,” he said.

Davis said used quotes from different sources including MHS student Caitlyn Webb, Miss Kansas Outstanding Teen 2011. “Many people are so focused on their destination that they forget that the journey is what matters,” he said. Davis said perhaps the greatest success anyone can achieve on the journey is happiness.

Davis, a member of Fellowship of Christian Athletes, used his faith as a closer to his speech.

“Remember there’s a God up there looking out for you,” he said. “When it’s all said and done and I meet Him face-to-face, I want to be able to say that I competed well, finished the race and kept the faith. May each of you, too.”

Fellow student speaker Linda Pei used sports to make to state the “unifying theme” of her speech. “Life is like volleyball,” she said. “You can’t always get a touchdown on that field. Sometimes, you have to go for the free throw as long as you don’t get caught stealing first base in the fifth quarter.”

Tortured metaphors aside, Pei shared the tale about “her good friend, Linda Pei,” a reference to herself. “She struggled a lot with trying to fit in, with trying to please people,” she said. Pei said her “friend” became an “original and genuine person” through finding herself during the failures to meet certain expectations.

Pei spoke about life being a process of figuring things out rather than a journey with preset destinations. “Just because we can’t see the future doesn’t mean it’s dark,” she said. “In fact, it is the uncertainty and ambiguity of the future that gives us the opportunity to craft it into whatever we want it to be.”

School board vice-president Dave Colburn echoed Pei’s thought by using his own high school struggles to inform the students that the slate is now wiped clean. He said the graduates, including the struggling students, had a chance to be successful in whatever the future holds for them.

“You’re at a spot where you can change your life, if you want to,” Colburn said.

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