Graduation tears

July 5, 2013

By Christina Corrales-Toy

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I’ll admit it. Every time I hear Vitamin C’s “Graduation,” Green Day’s “Good Riddance” or good old-fashioned “Pomp and Circumstance” at a graduation, I am going to cry.

It won’t be a full-on bawl. No, I can hold myself together; but I can’t guarantee that my eyes won’t subtly leak at least a couple of times during the ceremony.

Christina Corrales-Toy

Christina Corrales-Toy

Such was the case last month when I attended Hazen High School’s graduation June 13 and the Newcastle and Hazelwood elementary school fifth-grade promotions June 18. Staff photographer Greg Farrar handled the Liberty High School duties.

As I stood on the ShoWare Center’s arena floor and watched the Hazen graduates file into their seats with the sounds of “Pomp and Circumstance” filling the air, the first bout of my graduation-season “allergies” emerged.

There’s something special about watching young men and women participating in what is likely the biggest moment of their lives to date. That’s what high school graduation is, right? It’s the beginning of the rest of our lives.

Memories of my own 2008 graduation from Skyline High School began flooding through my brain. I remember how special that day was, and looking at the excited faces of the 2013 Highlander graduates, I saw that same eagerness and sense of accomplishment that crossed my face five years ago.

I couldn’t help but get emotional witnessing the scene outside the arena, as a horde of excited, proud parents waited to greet their kids with balloons, gifts, leis and most importantly, hugs.

The Hazelwood and Newcastle fifth-grade promotions were equally as celebratory, and, unsurprisingly, similarly tear inducing.

I cried when Vitamin C’s “Graduation,” came on in both schools’ fifth-grade slideshows. The tears wouldn’t stop when I heard Billy Joe Armstrong’s voice sing those familiar lyrics, “I hope you had the time of your life.”

I cried again when I looked at Newcastle Elementary School’s ceremonial program and noticed the words, “In loving memory of Katie Tinnea,” etched on the back, in purple, no less.

It was a fitting tribute to the first-grade teacher who passed away April 4 after she was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer in 2011. Purple was appropriate because it was Tinnea’s “fighting color.”

The moment that got to me the most, however, was when Hazelwood fifth-grader Brody Whiteaker took to the podium to give a class speech. Just like the speakers before him did, Brody reminisced about his time as a Mustang, thanking his friends and teachers.

As he approached the end of his speech, he became overwhelmed with emotion and began to cry at the thought of saying goodbye to the school he loved.

When I looked to my right, toward Brody’s teacher, Donald Maher, he, too, had tears flowing from his eyes. If there was a dry eye in the house after that moment, I’d like to see it.

That right there is proof that the teachers that serve Newcastle students, especially at Hazelwood, are doing things right.

Now please, can someone hand me a tissue?

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