Photos by Lauren Thomas
The Highland High School football field was the setting last Thursday, June 25 for the 138 members of the graduating class of 2015 to claim their diplomas.
Principal Peter Harris, a 1991 Highland High School graduate, welcomed the senior class and their families and friends, asking the parents of graduates to stand. “We recognize you,” he said, “for the part you have played in helping us help your children reach this milestone.” Harris told the students that they had collectively, as a group, made him proud to have been their principal “and now, fellow alum.”
Salutatorian Jahnvi Bansal noted the accomplishments of her fellow classmates and reminisced about common moments they had shared before addressing the sentiments found on greeting cards given to graduates. “Follow Your Dreams” is nice, she said, but it’s equally important to have a plan. And “Shoot for the moon and if you miss you’ll be among the stars” is misleading because “the stars are much farther than the moon, so you’d be hurtling through space and time.” Better to not waste time wishing and waiting for good things to happen, Bansal advised; “Do good things to make those good things happen.”
Valedictorian Erika Rosenkranse, who earned the distinction by graduating with the highest grade point average in her class, took an approach in her remarks that she characterized as “keepin’ it real.” Noting the temperature — it was a humid evening on the verge of rain — and the knowledge that the parents were waiting through the speeches to see their child get their diploma, Rosenkranse acknowledged her fellow graduates’ desire to “get our diplomas and move on,” saying to them, “If you’re like me, all you’re thinking about is getting through the ceremony and then running over to get some refreshments before they’re all gone.”
Rosenkranse thanked the teachers and congratulated the other graduates on their achievements before offering the advice to work hard. “If there is one thing I’ve learned,” she said, “which I believe holds true for everything, it’s that hard work pays off. Hard work coupled with perseverance will take you far and help you achieve your goals.”
The commencement speaker was class of 1995 Highland High School grad Jaime Lynne Bishop, director of research and data visualization at the Marist Institute of Public Opinion. She spoke about all the opportunities awaiting the students as they enter their adult lives and advised them not to be too concerned if their plans change along the way. She noted that she started college as a philosophy and psychology major, intending to be a teacher or guidance counselor, and then went on to pursue a master’s degree in environmental education. “But even after finishing my master’s, I ended up switching career plans,” she told the graduates. “There’s no need to worry if you change your major and decide something isn’t for you. Change is constant in our lives. And your time at Highland [High School] has provided you with the skills you need to start the new chapter in your life. Just remember to adjust your approach when things are not working and persevere no matter what. If you’ve made it through all the trials and tribulations of high school, believe me, you can get through anything.”
Several musical interludes alternated with the speeches. The Highland High School Concert Band, under the direction of Drew Rebecchi, performed “Prairie Dances.” The Highland High School Concert Choir sang a rendition of “I Hope You Dance,” directed by Lynda Keech. After the diplomas were issued, the concert choir sang the school’s alma mater and the students walked off into their adult lives to the sounds of Sousa’s “Manhattan Beach March.”