Saturday, June 19, 2010

Pomp and Circumstance

Warning: Mom brag session coming up. And it's LONG! Sorry, but you've been warned.

I'm finally finding the time to catch my breath after the whirlwind that was the final two weeks of Katie's HS career. It was an amazingly wonderful two weeks and a fabulous finish to HS. The two weeks leading up to graduation were filled with banquets, chorus concerts and awards nights. Unfortunately, I didn't get a single picture from all those events, but I promise I made up for it with the actual graduation activities. Many of these events took place in early June, but I'll do my best to remember all the details.

The first event took place on June 1 in the HS cafeteria. It was the annual Music Department Banquet. I must say that the people in charge did a wonderful job of transforming the cafeteria into a beautiful setting for this fun evening of honoring and roasting the seniors. The tables were covered in linen table cloths, there were potted plants on all the tables, balloons in the school colors and even music themed fabric serving as runners on the tables. The event was catered and the food was plentiful and delicious. Each and every senior was honored by their classmates and gently roasted to much laughter and applause. And each senior was given a very nice beach towel embroidered with the words "BHS Music Department" and some musical notes - again in the school colors. Katie had a wonderful time and she felt honored by the kind words spoken about her as she was "roasted".

Next up on our calendar of events was the HS Awards Night. We had received a letter a while ago stating that Katie had achieved a GPA that would allow her to be inducted into the RI Secondary Schools Honor Society and that the awards would be presented on June 2 at the HS. We were so proud of her and looked forwarded to attending the ceremony. What we didn't realize was that many other awards, honors and scholarships would be presented that night. Many of them unbeknownst to the recipient or their families. Awards were given by all the academic departments at the HS, by the athletic department, by many organizations in the community and by various other school, community and memorial societies. Imagine our surprise when the Student Council Advisor got up to award the Citizen of the Year Award and mentioned that the recipient was a student leader who was involved in more activities and clubs than she had ever witnessed and that this person was extremely humble. The members of the Student Council all vote on who in the senior class best explemplifies the qualities of good Citizenship and they chose Katie! Geoff and I were flabbergasted. And so was Katie. The look on her face was priceless. To be honored by her peers and recognized by the school that way meant so much to her. I don't think she thought that her peers really noticed her, let alone all that she has done for the school over the past four years. It was, without at doubt, our proudest moment. But that's not all. She was also honored by the local Elks with their Leadership Award for "americanism, cooperation, citizenship, leadership, patriotism and participation". We were stunned. We could not believe that Katie was honored with yet another award recognizing her active participation in school and her quiet leadership role. She looked positively shocked as well. The final awards of the night were the very heartfelt memorial awards given in memory of local HS students who have died over the years. Some died long ago, some more recently, some unexpectedly, some after illnesses, but all tragically. Many of these awards were presented by members of the memorialized student's family. Like many towns, our town has been touched by more than its fair share of teen deaths in the last several years. One such person was Katie Brown, who was murdered on her front lawn by her boyfriend in 2001. After this tragic death the Katie Brown Education Program was created and it now works diligently educating young people in RI about dating violence. Apparently, they also award a scholarship each year to the HS senior who epitomizes the qualities that Katie Brown herself demonstrated - kindness, caring and compassion. Well, guess who the school honored with this scholarship? My Katie! We were all floored and so honored. Sitting in that auditorium, my eyes filled with tears of joy and my heart swelled with pride. I can't think of three more valuable honors to have been awarded - citizenship, leadership and kindness, caring and compassion. Katie may not be the smartest, most athletic or most popular student in her HS class, but to be recognized by both her fellow students and the faculty for the strength of her character is an honor beyond compare. She left that awards ceremony feeling so proud of herself. And she deserves to feel that way.

The very next night, June 3, was the final Chorus Performance of Katie's HS career (and possibly ever). Each year the Choral Ensemble (which Katie is not a part of) performs at a local historic site, Linden Place. At this final concert Mrs. LaParle, the chorus director, invites the senior Chorus students (Katie being one) to perform with the ensemble. She then introduces each of the seniors to the audience, presents them with a flower and shares an anecdote about that student. It was a very elegant evening.

The following night, was the Senior Banquet, an event for seniors only. The students received their yearbooks and had a chance to get everyone to sign them. This was a dress up event and we were able to find a dress that Katie loved. She had a wonderful time with her friends. And I did manage to get photos of that!

Katie and Me

Katie, Kayla and Kelsey

The following week, we attended Katie's two day Freshman Orientation (that's a whole 'nother blog post), she had a day of exams and then FINALLY we celebrated Katie's Graduation Weekend on June 12th and 13th. The festivities started Saturday afternoon with Friendship Service. Friendship service is an event for the graduates and their family and friends. It is a bit less formal than the graduation, but it does involve student and faculty speakers. The graduates wear their caps and gowns and the student jazz ensemble plays and the senior chorus students sing. And that is when I lost it. I had a clear view of Katie singing. They sang "You'll Be in My Heart" from The Lion King. I realized in that moment that this would be one of the last times I would see Katie sing in a chorus concert. All the concerts I've attended from 4th grade till that moment flooded my memory. I'm tearing up now just thinking about it. Later than night one of Katie's friends, Sara, hosted a party at her house for students and their families. It was a wonderful end to a really nice day.

Katie (center) entering the gymnasium

Madeleine, Geoff, Katie and Me after the Friendship Service

The Graduates and Friends

Earlier that afternoon Katie asked me if I would go with her to the local craft store to buy some supplies to decorate her graduation cap. I can't tell you how much this meant to me. She hasn't really wanted to have too much to do with me for the last couple of years and it touched me that she wanted to include me in this project. The plan had been for all the kids to decorate their caps during the party at Sara's house. However, in the excitement of the party, cap decorating was forgotten and when Katie came home from the party (we had left earlier), she asked me if I would help her. As tired as I was (I was just getting into bed when she came home), I jumped at the chance. She and I had the most wonderful time designing and decorating her cap. It was magical.

The next day, Sunday, June 13th was Graduation. It was, without a doubt, one of my favorite days ever. Everything went smoothly, there was no tension or stress and everyone was happy. Especially Katie. I've never seen her happier. The day started with a couple of surprises I had planned for her. Katie mentioned to me about a month ago that she likes Precious Moments figurines. I had no idea. It just so happens that when I graduated from HS, my mom gave me a Precious Moments Graduation figurine. I knew I still had it packed away in a box in the basement somewhere. I dug it out and had it next to Katie's plate when she came down for breakfast. I also decorated her car with a Class of '10 flag and lots of graduation window decals, which she thought was great (that was a risky move. There was a good chance she would hate it). She happily (and patiently) posed for lots of pre-graduation pictures (which is very unusual for her).

The graduation itself was wonderful and even though it had to be held inside (due to the threat of rain), I had a good view of her as she waited in line to get her diploma, though not when the seniors sang. I cried anyway.

After the Graduation ceremony, we took lots of pictures outside the school. And, once again, Katie was patient and willingly posed for picture after picture. (Here's a small sample.)

Madeleine and Katie

Our family

Good friends

Pearl and Katie

The proud graduate

After the graduation it was back to our house for a celebration! We invited our family and our closest family friends to celebrate with us. Many of Katie's friends and classmates also stopped by during the traditional post-graduation "party hop". It was simply the best day ever.


Sandy said...

Whew! What an incredible two weeks. I think I'll go blow my nose and wipe my face now.

nan said...

Congratulations to Katie!!

tori said...

What a wonderful post! Thanks for sharing all of your excitement with us. What an amazing woman you have raised! Congratulations to Katie and to you on a job well done!!

JessRaquel said...

Congrats on your daughters graduation and all of those awesome awards she received! That's great, I bet you are sooo proud!

Anita said...

Huge Congratulations to Katie and to you too!! What an amazing young woman you have raised.
I love all the pictures, how fun about decorating the caps. The cake was lovely, hope it was just as tasty!
I'm not sure how you survived those two weeks, I know this summer with fly by, so enjoy all you can. I hope you have a super vacation planned. Thank you for sharing this with us.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Katie! It's hard to believe that it's been almost 18 yrs since I first saw her as a tiny baby in Phoenix....she's now the age we were when we first met!

Gail Foelsch said...

Congratulations Katie! It's hard to believe that it's been almost 18 yrs since I first saw her as a tiny baby in Phoenix....she's now the age we were when we first met!

Gail Foelsch said...

That's weird...I put my name on my post (it's the one above this)...


Natacha said...

Congrats! I have a soon to be 8th grader and I came to the scary realization that in 5 years I will be there too... where did time go?!

~Kristen~ said...

Such an amazing time in a young girl's life! Congratulations to the happy graduate!!! Your family is beautiful! Thanks so much for sharing this exciting time with all of us!!! :-)

Karen said...

You weren't kidding when you said you were busy!

That grad cap came out pretty awesome. And how great that she asked you to help her out.

My little sister is graduating from high school next year. I hope I can get through it as well as you did with Katie's. She's my BABY SISTER!

Anonymous said...

I want to cry after reading all of this...such powerful emotions...I remember them so well. You should be so proud of Katie! You have raised a wonderful daughter.


Katherine said...

You have an absolutely amazing daughter. You should be proud, not just of her, but of yourself for doing such a great job. How exciting the last couple weeks sound. It makes me think back to my own high school graduation and what it will be like when my little ones grow up too fast and graduate themselves.

Jeanni said...

Pam, I am so amazed and delighted with the honors and appreciation little Katie received. You must be glowing. SO GLAD you shared this wonderful news! Congratulations a million times on your almost grown up girl!!! And love the cap and cake :):)


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