Sunday, May 15, 2016

Full of Promise, Bossier Bearkats Receive Their Tickets to the Future

Bossier Bearkats Graduation 2016
Yesterday was graduation day for most Bossier Parish schools at the Century Link Center which sits at the end of the Arthur Ray Teague Parkway along the Red River.  School and city officials have this day down to a well organized machine as the parish high schools seamlessly run through the building all day long. As purple robed Benton High School graduates march across the stage, Bossier High School is lining up backstage. As the new Bossier High graduates are dashing out, gowns flapping behind them, Haughton High School moves in.  It's a pretty good system.

At the end of the day we have hundreds of new graduates.

As a teacher at Bossier High, it's my favorite event. The kids are excited, emotional, nervous, and proud.  And the families!  Oh the families!

Our senior class sponsor organizes our graduation and oversees the most minute details most people never think about like providing ties for boys who don't have them or white dress shirts. A large number of staff members show up to help on the big day. My job, along with the speech/drama teacher, is usually working to line up the actual diploma envelopes on a long table backstage.  After the ceremony, the new graduates pick up crisp white envelopes in which they will find their diploma, a souvenir copy of the program, and each senior also receives at least one personal, handwritten note from a teacher.  Some kids get three or four notes, but everyone gets at least one.  This is one of the unique traditions at Bossier High School that set us apart from bigger schools.

There were so many moments yesterday that made me misty eyed and that helped strengthen that fabric of family that defines Bossier High School:

That image of our librarian/senior class sponsor, papers in her hand, directing volunteer staff members to various positions: check the right side of the line, be sure everyone is lined up correctly!  Check the left side, be sure everyone is in the right place!  She is cool and collected and always smiling.  Reassurance defined.

The kids are all in line, waiting.  One teacher walks along the line collecting gum.  You do NOT go out there chewing gum. The senior counselor collects a nose ring and tucks it in her pocket.  Guys with earrings?  We'll take those until after the ceremony.  Everyone complies.  

One senior tunes out the noisy din, standing quietly in line with his earbuds in, hands in pockets, watching and waiting.  As time gets closer, he removes his headphones, unprompted, and slips them under his robe, into his pockets.

In the last few moments before the long walk down the hallway toward the auditorium, the principal has the kids link hands one last time and calls them to attention. There is utter silence. Pinkies are linked, hand are clasped. Silence. Then he speaks in familiar tones of their time at Bossier, of the love we share for them, and offers good wishes for whatever journeys are ahead.

In comes one late arrival, cap tucked under her arm and robe flapping behind her as she runs on perilously high heels to take her spot in line just as it is ready to move into the auditorium.  A staff member calms her down, pins the cap neatly, and slides her smoothly in line, ready to go.

The speeches are moving.  They are brief, about three to five minutes, but powerful. I stood with the speech/drama teacher in the wings, listening.  I was doing pretty well until the salutatorian, staggeringly tall, blond, and sweet as she can be, approached the microphone and began her speech with a tiny gasp of a sob in her voice.  "Come on," I whispered.  "You can do this!"  Urging her on with silent support.  The speech teacher next to me smiled confidently, peacefully, with the knowledge that this student would muscle through this. The crowd encouraged her with applause. She got through it.  Her speech was fabulous and caught every tiny memory that had occurred over the past four years in a five minute speech: chicken day on Wednesdays, the long run from the second floor of one building to the third floor of the other, football games, surviving multiple AP classes, and what got me was when she called out the support of her teachers that she will never forget, catching the essence of each one.  "Oh, that's great...," she quoted her English teacher's support and just nailed that teacher's voice in the impression.  Everyone laughed and clapped.

One of our two valedictorians gave part of her speech in Spanish to her parents who have sacrificed immeasurably to support their daughter's education.  It was a stunningly beautiful moment and filled with emotion.  Not many dry eyes in the house at that point.  I had to take that moment to slip back to my table of envelopes and find my tissues.

The kids are all so filled with promise and hope.  

I looked at the envelopes standing up alphabetically in the box, waiting for me to lay them out in rows on the table.  Each one of those envelopes represented twelve years of work.  Twelve years of relationships, love, support, and promise.  Each envelope represented a different person, a unique personality, a life wide open with promise. A ticket to the future.

As the new graduates marched down the hall after the ceremony, led by their class leaders, they were chanting "Bossier! Bossier!" It's the last time they will march together as a group, the last time they will all be together as a group, and the last time we will see some of them, although many of them will continue to return to Bossier just to visit, to be sure they've not been forgotten, to remember.

Those kids will now scatter far and wide, making new lives and new memories. As teachers, administrators, and staff, and as a Bearkat family, we have given them all we possibly could. We have taught lessons, both life lessons and academic ones, we have guided them, watched them grow, tried to keep them on the right, straight and true path, and we have loved them. We have gotten aggravated at them sometimes, but always loved them.  We are a family.

Godspeed little Bearkats!  


Kelly Cullen said...

It's been a long time since I picked up my diploma and even longer since my dad picked up his. Both of my sons walkrd the halls, marched with the band, played with a strong heart with the football team and both wore the ROTC uniform with pride. Now my daughter Melanie Hucklebridge is finishing her sophmore year and she is filled with the same sense of family and pride that you mention. Thank you so much Mrs. Becker and the staff of Bossier High School for teaching us all about the family spirit and pride that we all have. Those of us that walked the halls of a truly gteat school. Bossier High School! Bearkat family forever. ☺

Pat Austin said...

I love Melanie! She has been an absolute joy this semester and her future at BHS is bright! Thank you for sharing her with us.

Jayhawk said...

Beautiful. Reading this made my day.