By Kent Gray
Triplicate staff writer
More than 1,000 parents gathered under cloudy skies last night at Mike Whalen Field to watch their children say farewell to their alma mater as approximately 240 students graduated from Del Norte High School.
As teary-eyed mothers watched from the bleachers, the students marched in procession to the final ceremony that marks the end of their high school education.
"If I could describe tonight, in one word, it would be ¬Ďamazing,'" said Associate Student Body President Justin Gill as he thanked "administration and staff for their caring and dedicating their lives to students."
Student Katherine Smith called it "an extravaganza of emotion" to be there.
The graduates seemed subdued as they spoke about leaving behind their childhoods and beginning life as adults through speeches, poems and songs.
Valedictorian Jessie Owen prompted laughs from the audience when she told them "I only started writing my speech early, early this morning."
The audience filled the bleachers on the south side of the field, leaving more than 100 lining up on the sides and behind the podium.
The ceremony began at 5:50 p.m., when the procession left the gym for the football field. Principal Jan Moorehouse introduced Class of 2002 President Shannon Wallen who led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Moorehouse introduced 14 seniors who achieved 4.0 and above grade-point averages.
"When we recognize these 14, we celebrate their very hard work, and we know that the best they give represents pieces of a wonderful collage of excellence to be found across the campus," Moorehouse said. "Parents, please stand so we can recognize you for your support of their efforts."
The ceremony concluded with words from Superintendent Frank Lynch, who explained the symbolism of taking their next step in life.
"The ceremonial moving of your tassel, although small in action, symbolizes your passing from your past growth and accomplishments to a future of hope and promise," Lynch said. "Graduates, you may move your tassels from the left side of your caps to the right side."