USD 408 Sports and Aquatics Center took on a festive atmosphere Sunday for the 128th commencement ceremony of Marion High School.
Spectators filled the west bleachers of the facility as 39 soon-to-be graduates processed to music performed by the Marion High School band, taking their seats on the gymnasium floor. Special music was performed by the MHS Singers and MHS Concert Band.
Beth Nesser, Taylor Harms, and Annie Whitaker each addressed their fellow students from the podium as co-valedictorians. The trio formed a pact as eighth graders to maintain perfect 4.0 grade point average, an item which caught the attention of KWCH Channel 12 TV from Wichita, which was there to film the graduation ceremony and aired a segment featuring the girls on their newscast that evening.
In addition to Harms, Nesser, and Whitaker, Marion High School Principal Tod Gordon recognized Colten Johnson, Whitney Gordon, and Jessie Taylor as honors students. Taylor was also named salutatorian.
Harms and Andrew Kjellin were named the outstanding senior girl and boy.
Gordon read the class roll as students walked across the makeshift stage to be awarded their diplomas. Superintendent Lee Leiker did the ceremonial turning of the mortar board tassels for each student, a traditional symbol of graduation.
The students and audience laughed and grew teary-eyed as a student-created slideshow was played featuring pictures of each graduate.
“This was a good senior class, a really good class,” Gordon said. “I always wondered all those years I was middle school principal what it would be like to have a senior class, and I couldn’t have picked a better senior class.”
Leiker said a unique aspect of this graduating class was the individuality displayed by its members.
“There’s a lot of great individuals in this class,” Leiker said. “They had their own individual interests, they weren’t afraid to go after them, and they didn’t worry if those were the interests of their friends.”
While he has participated in numerous graduation ceremonies, Leiker said each one is a special experience.
“Graduation from high school is a great milestone in the future of kids,” Leiker said. “The sense of pride that I feel from that accomplishment, a staff that’s done a good job and a district that’s done a good job to get them here — it takes everybody to help them be successful. It all comes together at graduation.”
The annual baccalaureate service was Saturday at Eastmoor United Methodist Church. A group of about 70 people attended the service, which was conducted by members of the class.
The MHS Singers performed “Set Me as a Seal,” and the congregation joined together for two hymns.
Presbyterian Church pastor and USD 408 Board of Education member Jeremiah Lange presented the sermon.
The students processed and recessed to music played by Anita Hancock.