Based on what happened the night before, I knew the high school graduation would be hot. Very hot. This year the graduation ceremony was pushed back a week, which means only one thing – it’ll be hotter than the year before. I attended the middle school’s eighth grade promotion ceremony June 6 and had a notion of what it might be like for the next night. Rumor had it, it would be even hotter for the high school graduation. Lord, I hoped it wouldn’t be.
It was indeed very hot the next night. As I waited for the commencement ceremony to begin, I could see lots of friends and family members of graduates fanning themselves, drinking water and simply trying to make it through the event. Before I even left the office, I double checked the temperature – 114 degrees at 7:15 p.m.! I know Needles is in the Mojave Desert, but that’s just a bit much for June weather, even for here. I seriously fear July and August right about now.
There was something in the air that night. Every graduation can be a little emotional and it’s always special, but this night felt different, even for me. In my time here in Needles and working for the paper, I’ve had the chance to meet and even get to know several of the students in the school district here. I show up for various photo opportunities and stories so the kids get to know me and have become fairly comfortable with me through the years. Shoot, some of them now come up to me begging for photos of themselves (hint, hint Devin). For me, graduation was different because I know this class better than any of the other classes.
I moved to Needles in November 2009 for the job. That first spring, I really didn’t know the kids much other than through winter and spring sports coverage and a few school events. It took me a good while before I established a good working relationship with the schools. I have that now. I’ve watched this group, this class, since halfway through their freshman year and watched how they’ve grown. Devin used to be such a nice quiet young man, then he hit his junior year and really came out of his shell and he was sure to let me know about it – hounding me for a picture of himself to be put in the paper every chance he got. What a ham. Anyway, it was fun seeing these kids grown up, become young adults and watch them as they move into their futures.
Among my many memories of this class are the softball state championships. The Lady ’Stangs softball team is very successful every year and this year was no different. It all worked out according to the coach’s plan – playing to get into softball shape and for the group to come together at just the right moment. His daughter won as a freshman and again as a senior – pretty special. She’s moving onto college with various academic and sports scholarships.
I was never all that much into baseball, or softball really. I loved baseball movies (“Bull Durham,” “The Sandlot” and such), but not the sport itself so much, but it’s funny how covering a sport for years, getting to know it more intimately can be persuasive. Baseball is still not my favorite sport, but I like it much more now. There’s plenty of great memories of my spring sports coverage and watching those kids get better and better every year. I know they’re disappointed that they’ve been state runners up for a few years instead of state champs, but to get there every year is an accomplishment in of itself.
Some of the best memories I have of this class are just plain silly, but I think that speaks to their character. Again, Devin shows up – I told you, he suddenly got confident and became a pest, but a funny one at that. It really started with the Mr. Needles competition – a fundraiser for the Associated Student Body (student council). The competition is a beauty pageant, but for the boys and they dress in drag. It’s almost never politically correct but always a hoot and a half. Devin was last year’s winner. He donned a beautiful gray, sparkly knee length Homecoming gown for the evening gown portion that was featured on the sports page along with a regular basketball picture of himself. Once a winner, the winner can’t compete again but Devin returned in his alter ego but this time it showed he opted to use his pageant “winnings” to get a boob job haha. Oh the silliness. Devin isn’t silly on his own either. He and very close friend, Mason, had a number of laughs together. This year baseball coach, Ken, was sure to solidify that bond with a mock wedding of the duo because of their “bromance.” It was quite possibly the best gag gift I’d ever witnessed. Crossed bats, plastic tiaras with veils, exchanging of vows and ring pops completed the entire process – hilarious!
They have a serious side also, doing various fundraisers, blood donations, supporting the troops overseas and other charitable work. This year’s class also started an Interact Club, which is like Rotary but for students.
The only thing about all of this is how much it makes me feel old. Four springs gone by already and it’s gone by so quickly. I interviewed the valedictorians and it always amazes me how much they understand things I didn’t at their age. My life may very well be completely different if I had known then what I know now. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not but it certainly doesn’t help my age complex. I might feel like I didn’t waste so many years of my life if I’d understood those things at their age. That said, I’m so impressed at how much they understand, far beyond their years. I see many of these kids as being successful, in whatever it is they want to do.
With that – congratulations Class of 2013! You’ve come a long way and I wish you all the best in all your endeavors.