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Graduation: Behind the scenes edition

Cate Hampton ’24 walking to the stage to get her diploma

As seniors are anxiously waiting to turn their tassels and start a new chapter of their lives, there are a lot of preparations to ensure that graduation leaves seniors with a positive memory as they reminisce on their high school careers. Graduation is an emotional and busy time for everyone involved. Although the behind-the-scenes in planning graduation and the events leading up to it are not advertised, the hard work of staff and students makes this night possible.

Mellissa Petz is the student activities coordinator at South. She said that even in the fall, the anxiety about creating the perfect graduation falls on her shoulders. With a team of people including Principal Mussa Hamka, Assistant Principal Cynthia Paravano, and the senior class council, Petz said they are able to brainstorm ideas.

“It’s fun and it is very rewarding knowing that they (students) have a good time,” Petz said. “We can kind of evaluate and figure out what works and what doesn’t work for next year.”

The planning is mostly student-driven explained Petz, however, her role is to make sure students are dressed in their cap and gown, in a good mood, and to make sure everyone is put into alphabetical order so things run smoothly and create a beautiful ceremony. Petz could not do it alone, along with her team there are many teachers and volunteers that come to help. With the floods of people who come to help and celebrate family members and friends, Petz said that the main priority is to keep everyone safe.

“We do have a whole full detail of undercover police officers roaming around and CPR and first aid staff available, and water available,” Petz said. “So safety is a huge concern.”

While much hard work goes into planning the event, English teacher and class council advisor of the class of 2024, Shannon Sugamele is in charge of picking the perfect speakers to encapsulate the emotions and anticipations for the senior class. She said that the first speaker is always the class president, while the second speaker is tasked with sending Sugamele a copy of their speech and auditioning in front of her as well as other staff members.

“That was very difficult to pick the additional speaker because all the speeches we had were good,” Sugamele said. “They were unique in their own ways.”

The class of 2024 is Sugamele’s first class, which she has advised and led to graduation. She said that she has gotten to know the class in some way, shape, or form so this graduation is especially emotional for her because she knows them so well.

“It’s just been an honor to be the advisor for the class of 2024 and I’m looking forward to seeing all of what they accomplish in the next chapter of their lives,” Sugamele said.

Senior Cate Hampton is emotional as well, she said that college is a big change since high school is all she’s known. She said that since there is so much work put in by teachers, staff, and community members, all she is responsible for is making sure she is surrounded by family and friends as she says her goodbyes to South.

“For the most part I’m happy about high school being over and I’m excited to graduate and move on to next year,” Hampton said.

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Maggie Obrien '25
Maggie Obrien '25, Web Editor
Maggie O’Brien ’25 is the opposite of what you would consider a lazy student. O’Brien involves herself in school clubs and activities, including Student Association, Student Council and Interact along with being a multi-sport athlete. O’Brien is a second-year staffer and web editor on Tower. Always looking for the opportunity to try new things, O’Brien decided to join Tower to experience the community and possibilities that are offered. “I love writing about the things I’m interested in and just having fun with it overall,” O’Brien said. “It's a great place to meet new friends and experience things you wouldn't usually see yourself doing.”

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