Special day among friends
DHS bids goodbye to 86th class
From the song "For Good" performed by the school choir to the many hugs in the commons, members of the De Soto High School class of 2006 were reminded at Saturday's graduation of the friends they made and the pain of leaving them behind.
Jennifer Kline told her 92 fellow seniors that good friends are hard to find and "impossible to leave." Kline struggled to do just that, fighting through tears as she said goodbye to the friends she'd made in her two years at the high school.
"I was trying not to," she said after the ceremony. "But I saw everyone crying. It made it worse."
In her speech, Kline said her graduation day response was far removed from the "can't wait to leave" attitude she sometimes heard expressed in the school. Kline said she found a welcome and support in De Soto.
"This year I learned a valuable lesson," she said. "I learned a true friend walks beside you when everyone else is walking out."
As for advice, she quoted comedian Rodney Dangerfield.
"Look out for No. 1, just keep an eye out for No. 2 along the way," she said, telling her classmates the joke meant "do it your own way, but be careful."
Her classmate Elizabeth Lowe found other words to express the same sentiments. Life was about change, she said, and the seniors could expect good times and bad.
"There's always a way through adventures," she said. "Life's a wonderful journey just starting out."
Amanda Atchison returned to the theme of friendship in her remarks.
"I can honestly say, not one day did I walk down the hall without a smile or a wave," she said. "You showed me you cared, and for that I'm grateful."
Manuel De Leon spoke of his gratitude to his parents, who immigrated from Mexico -- first to California and then to Kansas -- before his birth in search of the American dream.
His mother and father persevered in that dream, which he defined as one of freedom, success, education, courage and good citizenship, despite sometimes facing discrimination, De Leon said. Along the way, the family found a friend in a Lexington Trials Middle School teacher and he found a mentor in De Soto High School journalism teacher Michael Sullivan, he said.
"Now, it's my turn to finish what they started," said De Leon, who will attend Kansas University to study business. "From them, I learned the value of good education."
Attending a small-town school afforded her class members the chance to experience many things, Kaitlin Johnson said, recalling football successes, school plays, marching with the band at the Cotton Bowl and such questionable headline-making activities as the fight club and Mafia game of the last year.
Her classmates learned to excel through experience, Johnson said. If she ever wanted to make a movie she'd turn to Nathan Cardiff, who put together monthly videos for the school, and the school's NASA moonbuggy team member Carrie Buser if she ever needed to design an airplane, she said.
Bob Stone remembered how as a sophomore new to the school he found acceptance when at lunch classmates said, "Hey new kid, you come sit with us." He would apply the lessons he learned from his classmates, teachers and administrators to relationships the rest of his life, he said.
Following a De Soto High School tradition, the class selected a feature speaker from the school's faculty. Karen Wall, who is stepping away from teaching after a career that included 20 years as a social studies teacher at the high school, recalled her first address to a De Soto High School graduating class 11 years earlier.
Sadly, the first occasion occurred after the death of a student Gregg Hartman, who was remembered with his adopted motto, "carpe diem," which the students step over every day entering the school, she said.
That motto was the first of the five traits Wall told the class were essential for a successful and happy life. Students should seize the day by enjoying it for what it offered rather than fantasizing how it could be better if they were older or younger, she said.
The other essential traits were the Army slogan "Be All You Can Be" by developing their potential, a realization that most essential things in life weren't things, living a life of integrity and becoming a person of faith, Wall said. But she warned the graduates the traits were acquired through work and difficulty.
"Integrity is hard," she said. "It's much easier to copy that math problem than to spend an hour of work doing it yourself.
"But there's no positive self-esteem gained if you do that."
After the ceremony, Cardiff contemplated the day's finality.
"It's taken all year to get used to it," he said. "High school has been everything to me."
But like many of his classmates, he does have plans. He starts at Fort Hays State in the fall to study broadcast journalism.
"I really hope to become a film director one day," he said.