HILLMAN - Addressing her classmates at their graduation, Hillman High School Senior Abby Olree compared finishing high school to climbing a mountain. While some made it to the top easily, others struggled and had to train harder.
"I'm not saying that this is the biggest mountain you will see in your lives," she said. "However, the view from the peak is always the best, so the climb is always worth it."
Olree was one of six students to speak at Hillman High School's Class of 2013 Graduation Sunday. They addressed their peers, and a large crowd of parents, friends and family who gathered in the school gymnasium to watch these students complete the first leg of their lifelong climb.
After filing into the gym and hearing the national anthem, courtesy of the Hillman High School Band, Chelsey Painter started the ceremony by reminding her 29 classmates of all the ways teachers strove to help them graduate.
Senior Morgan Hardies gave a tribute to the parents, thanking them for all the sacrifices they made to help their children succeed. Before each senior gave their parents a yellow rose, she thanked hers for their unconditional love.
"We want to dedicate ourselves today to all the parents that made it here, and most importantly, to those who couldn't be here today," she said.
Abigail Hunt talked about the three most important things in her life while in high school: her teachers, her family and her classmates. She and all the other seniors started high school as children, and finished as adults. Along the way, they learned a great deal, from the quadratic equation to learning to never touch one teacher's plants.
"Forty-third president George W. Bush once said, 'Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning,'" she said. "Well I can assure you, here at Hillman High School, our children is learning."
Chelsea Sikora recalled how so much adolescent drama will be forgotten in the future, and marveled at the seemingly infinite patience of her teachers.
"Sometimes I wonder how they didn't just haul off and slap us," she said.
Abby Olree presented a slide show featuring photos of each graduating senior, and dedicated to their late classmate Madison Noffze and class advisor Suzanne Cramer. Afterward, Suzanne's son Allan talked about his first day at high school, setting foot into what seemed like "the longest and most terrifying halls."
Cramer paid tribute to Noffze and his mother, then asked each of his classmates to "think outside the box."
"I challenge each of us to think in directions no one has even thought of," he said.
Principal Michael Leskowich presented the class to Superintendent Shawn Olson, saying that each one met the requirements to get their diplomas that day. Then, one by one, they handed diplomas out to each senior.
Before the students spoke, Class Advisor Betty Jo Bruder read some examples of what the seniors thought they'd do after graduating. It was something each one had been asked when they were in elementary school. Many mentioned jobs, getting a house, saving up for a car or moving out of town.
"I ask that when our program is over, when you see one of the graduates that you know, to walk up and ask them, 'Have your plans changed,'" she said.