Commencement speaker Clay Good sent the Juneau-Douglas High School Class of 2001 into the real world Saturday night with a bash at the virtual world.
Good, a JDHS science teacher and member of the Class of 1978, closed his commencement address by smashing a television set.
Technology can disconnect people from the reality of friends, family and the planet, Good told the approximately 350 outgoing seniors and their parents and friends who filled the JDHS gym.
The hours spent in front of a television or video game come at a price in a finite life, Good said. He urged the students to spend time with nature, their families and themselves - and always ask questions.
"I have learned that everything is connected. Everything is connected," Good said.
It was Juneau's 97th high school graduating class. The valedictorians, with 4.0 grade point averages, were Kristen Bressette, Stacy Montag, Kenneth Reed Willis and Eden Orelove. The salutatorian, with the next highest GPA and nearly 4.0, was Robert Bishop.
Before the ceremony, Montag said her good memory of JDHS is "just the learning experience. I take school pretty seriously."
High school graduation is a traditional ritual, the forms and thoughts repeated around the country and through the decades. The dimly lit gym flickered with flashes from cameras as families and friends cheered the entering graduates and the school orchestra played "Pomp and Circumstance."
"Another big step in your life," said Darryl McCrummen, there to see his brother Buddy McCrummen graduate. "It's a pretty big step. For a young man, it's a step into manhood."
"I think probably it's the beginning of a new chapter," said Tim Foss, mother of graduate Robbie Watson. Her son will be trekking in India next winter with his father and later enter the University of Alaska Southeast.
The graduates had the usual mixed feelings.
"I'm really excited, but I don't want to leave all my friends," said Ashley Landi, who will study child psychology at San Diego State University.
Gary Hansen said high school was fun because he liked his fellow students, but he was glad it was finally over. Hansen, like some other Native students, was wearing regalia. In his case, he wore clan regalia from his uncle.
"I believe he wore it for his graduation, and I'm proud to wear it," Hansen said.
For Jeremy Hansen, graduating from high school wasn't so exciting because he expects it will be just a step in his education. He hopes to get a doctorate in computer science or engineering.
"I like learning. I'm kind of sad school is out because I like continuing my education process," he said.
It's still a "wonderful milestone," said school board member Chuck Cohen, whose daughter, Julia, was graduating.
"It's not only the culmination of primary and secondary education, but hopefully a beginning of a lifetime of learning and growing," Cohen said.
One of the student speakers, Jon Chapman, who will attend California Polytechnic State University, advised students that success isn't a destination but part of the journey. Success came each day they turned in a paper or made a sports team, he said.
Chapman urged the students to cultivate relationships and equip others to help them with their dreams. He said their attitude will determine their altitude and shape how they respond to the inevitable failures.
"If you're going to get knocked down, you might as well pick something up while you're down there," Chapman said.
And he told the students that leadership isn't achieved like cooking in a microwave oven. "You have to more crockpot people. You have to slowly prepare them to lead."
Eric Fry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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