It's the last week of school and students district-wide are having a hard time sitting still in class. This is when field trips and special events occur almost continuously to help keep them entertained until the final bell rings on Friday.
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On Wednesday afternoon, Juneau-Douglas High School auditorium was filled with squirming teens, fidgeting, laughing and turning around in their seats, waiting for the Senior Awards ceremony to begin.
The event, organized with lots of help by school counselor Barb Conant, honored certain seniors for outstanding work and exceptional contributions to the school. Nominees were voted on by teachers and administrators, many of whom were on hand to hand out the awards.
The ceremony began with student council President Alex Nelson and principal Bernie Sorenson, who took to the podium and welcomed everyone.
It then kick-started with a song, "Come What May" from the musical Moulan Rouge, spiritedly sung by Clairen Stone and Aaron Kearns, and accompanied by Mary Stone on piano, Stephen Young on bass and Alex Nelson on drums.
When adults began filing to the podium to announce this year's award recipients, it seemed as if the audience would surely get lost in the long list of names and speeches. But the multi-media event, which included live music and a yearbook slideshow by Emily Meiners on a screen at center stage, gave even the most distractable something to hold their attention.
Before the names were announced, a photograph on the screen told everyone who was the winner of the next award, each time prompting cheers and whoops and whistles from friends and acquaintances in the audience.
When George Gress announced Gabrielle Vance as the recipient of the English Department's senior award, he confided that she had not only read the entire book list before the semester even started, but knew so much and was so well-spoken about the literature, that she, at times, seemed to be teaching the class herself.
Bethany Bereman, head of the drama department, took a moment before announcing Liam Campbell as the recipient for the department's award, to bid a tearful farewell to her students, whom she articulated had made the last eight years one of the most profound periods of her life. She is leaving JDHS, getting married and moving to Hawaii in June.
When Laury Scandling, principal of of Yaakoosgé Daakahdi, stood at the podium, she eloquently traced the life of Jessica Linhart who came to the alternative high school with two years of failing grades and a lack of engagement that kept her head down on the table much of the first semester. Scandling and her staff chose Linhart to receive this award because she not only showed strength and determination in turning her life around, but went on to encourage and build up her peers as well.
The schools' top award, the "Above Self Award," went to Jimmy Medford and Alex Nelson. These are students who have "selflessly contributed to our school or community ... (and) have gone above and beyond to make an impact in the community and help others," the program said.
Medford and Nelson were honored with impassioned speeches and hugs by Bernie Sorenson and Joe Powers.
After all that, Katelyn Niewoehner sang beautifully "Only Hope" in a clear, angelic voice, accompanied by her father, Eric, on guitar. The idiom "a pin could be heard dropping" would be a good one to use here.
Eva Cedar and Hillary Buck altered that mood considerably with their tribute to retiring science teacher Clay Good. After listing his attributes, which included making sure everyone had a date for the prom, they all three donned sunglasses, turned to the audience and quoted, "The future is so bright you need to wear shades!"
This in itself would have been a fine ending, but not quite.
The grand finale came in the form of a hilarious brass duet performed by Tom Meiners on trumpet and Stephan Young on tuba - a medley of two songs, "Everytime We Touch" and "Get Low." The audience howled and clapped along. Most were laughing.
But not all.
There were some sad eyes in the room looking out over the crowd, realizing this would be the last time they'd see these faces, these friends, these teachers gathered together in this auditorium for a spirited high school event.
I'm sure there were few parents with the same thoughts.
Put on your shades. Here comes the future, folks.
Teri Tibbett is a Juneau writer and the proud mother of 2007 JDHS student council president, "Above Self" and Music Department award recipient, Alex Nelson.
High school department awards
presented by Janna Lelchuk
presented by Julia Bastucheck
presented by Jan Neimeyer andMarianne Manning
presented by Richard Moore
presented by Ken Guiher
JOHN PHILLIP SOUSA AWARD
presented by Ken Guiher
presented by George Gress
presented by Cheri Carson
Rachelle Sloss and Daniel Hays
presented by Steve Potter
Alex Hunt and Taelyn Coffee
presented by Jim Kearns
presented by Clay Good
presented by Sara Hannan
ENGLISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE
presented by Rainee Godwin
presented byLynn Meyers
presented by Bethany Bereman
presented by Craig Mapes
ALTERNATIVE HIGH SCHOOL
presented by Laury Scandling
presented by Kelly Hopson
Gabrielle Vance, Libby Parker, and Molly Trostel
presented by Frank Coenraad
ABOVE SELF AWARD
presented by Bernie Sorenson Alex Nelson
presented by Joe Powers