May 13, 2007
Cap and gown-clad teenagers will be filing in and out of the cavernous World Arena and the Air Force Academy’s Clune Arena for dozens of graduation ceremonies in the coming days.
Not Widefield High School seniors. They’ll be heading to their school’s gymnasium, where more than 2,500 friends and family members will crowd onto bleachers to see about 250 graduates cross the stage. Some will have stood in line for several hours to get seats. Uncomfortable seats. But it’s tradition, and most people wouldn’t have it any other way. There’s always emotion surrounding graduation and sending students to the next phase of life, said school counselor Anne Bott. But in Widefield, there’s something else. “We’re here on our turf with our traditions,” she said. “I hope it never changes.” Ben Wasser is the senior class president and will receive the first diploma on Saturday — one of many Widefield traditions. He thinks the traditions are important and looks forward to graduating in Bowers Gymnasium. “It’s part of Widefield,” he said. “It makes this school special.” Organizers do what they can to make the ceremony comfortable for spectators. Gymnasium doors are open all night before the ceremony, Bott said, in hopes the cold, night air will last through a roughly two-hour ceremony. And while graduates’ names aren’t displayed on a gigantic scoreboard, their senior picture is shown on a large screen as they receive their diploma. The diplomas are another tradition that sets Widefield apart. Graduates receive their diploma as they cross the stage. Other schools give an empty diploma holder, and the real thing is mailed or handed out after the ceremony. Bott said once she had to creep on stage minutes before the ceremony to pull a diploma out of the carefully organized stacks when a student unexpectedly didn’t attend. A graduation such as Widefield’s could probably only be maintained in a community with a strong local identity — and Widefield definitely has that. More than 20 percent of Widefield High School employees are alumni. The incoming and outgoing superintendents are Gladiators, too. Beth Pershing, the principal’s secretary at Widefield High School, graduated from the school in 1973. She’s worked there for 12 years. “To me, roots are important,” she said. “I just feel that gives a community stability.” CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0394 or firstname.lastname@example.org