Graduation ceremony in final planning stages

At 8:30 p.m. May 29, the graduating Class of 2015 will be walking the stage at the Frank Erwin Center.

The planning of this ceremony is led by assistant principal Donna Jackson.

“I start organizing [graduation] in March,” Jackson said. “I start looking at my calendar from last year. I keep it and I use it like a journal so that I can check to see when I should be doing certain tasks.”

Few students realize that the graduation process starts way before the event.

“We start off with the Chaps in Service cut-off,” Jackson said. “That’s after spring break, but a lot of it really starts even sooner than that, like organizing with our Herff Jones rep about caps and gowns, and getting all that stuff done. Pretty much when we come back from spring break, that’s when I start reaching out to teachers about who wants to work at graduation. That response helps us determine how many masters robes and hoods we have to have for those teachers. In April, we get the surveys for Mr. and Ms. Westlake nominations, Golden Apple teacher nominations and graduation speaker nominations.”

The school suggests that the students dress comfortably, with respect to the school guidelines.

“The big deal for girls is shoes,” Jackson said. “We want you to be comfortable and not hurt yourselves. It’s one of the rare cases where the guy’s dress is more important than the girl’s dress because the robe covers everything on a girl. We want [the guys] to be wearing a collared shirt, with a tie and dress slacks. We don’t want jeans, we don’t want tennis shoes. The robe on the guy looks really weird if they don’t have a dress shirt and a tie. With girls, it just matters so little because the robe covers the entire outfit.”

There are some factors that the school cannot control, one of which is student behavior.

“It’s one of those things where you can’t plan for every possible contingency,” Jackson said. “So if something’s really out of line, we’re gonna get involved. But we don’t want to do that. We don’t want to embarrass anybody, so we try to be as discreet as we can if something comes up. Our bottom line is it’s a dignified ceremony, and what we’re hoping is that everyone behaves appropriately because graduation is more for the family than anything else. We don’t want any behavior to make it a bad ceremony.”

Unlike college graduations, the school does not allow the students to decorate their caps, nor can they bring any personal items, including their phone. All personal belongings should be dropped off at the Performing Arts Center in preparation for Project Graduation.

“[The ceremony] is long,” Jackson said, “but because of the way we structure the commencement, where we have our student speakers interspersed in the name calling, it’s less boring than if we went A to Z. It makes the whole program run more interestingly.”

Seniors are anxious for the ceremony, excited about their new freedom.

“[I think I’ll feel] relieved that I somehow made it through high school,” senior Alex Pankhurst said. “I’m excited to be on my own, make my own decisions and try new things.”