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Seniors Get Major Changes to Graduation Ceremony

Ralph+Plagman+speaks+at+the+2016+commencement+ceremony.
Ralph Plagman speaks at the 2016 commencement ceremony.

Ralph Plagman speaks at the 2016 commencement ceremony.

Photo Courtesy of Impact Photography

Photo Courtesy of Impact Photography

Ralph Plagman speaks at the 2016 commencement ceremony.

Becca Turnis, Web editor

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“Dr. [Brad] Buck will not be speaking at graduation,” said Dr. Carlos Grant, interim principal of Washington High School.

This is among a significant number of changes coming to Washington’s Commencement ceremony, taking place May 25 at the U.S. Cellular Center.

“These changes came up because students asked for it. [Around the beginning of April], I was approached by the senior class leadership spearheaded by Peter Greubel, the senior class president. They came and, very professionally and in a very classy manner, presented their proposal to me,” Grant said.

Greubel had many ideas for changes the class hoped to implement. “Our idea, was to have a keynote speaker (instead of the superintendent), have teachers who have been with us the past four years [handing out diplomas], and to have the counselors read off the names,” said Peter Greubel, senior class president. “I and a group of students (Grace Carey, Hallie Cooper, Sam Mcdermott, Peter Nassif, Katarina Newcamp, Andy O’Neill, Courtney Peckosh, Lucy Ernst and Malik Vance) helped organize a different graduation ceremony that would be more representative of the senior class and would make the ceremony more meaningful to [the class].”

Grant believes that the changes were not made due to negative feelings towards Buck or the school board. “[The process] was quite humorous because [the seniors] were very respectfully trying to figure out how to ask Dr. Buck not to speak, not out of a disrespect to him, but more out of a motivation of ‘How can we have a keynote speaker present’, because the superintendent speech, while important as it is, is sometimes less meaningful to kids,” Grant explained. “When we presented the idea to Dr. Buck he was actually very relieved because he was trying to figure out how he could get the high schools to have the superintendent not speak and get to a point where they have a keynote speaker. So [the plan] worked out very well. [Dr.Buck] didn’t take it as negatively at all as they thought it would be.”

Speaking instead will be Stacey Walker, ’06, the current Linn County Supervisor. “He graduated from Washington High School, and he is a very successful man. He grew up in the community, he’s grown up in the area, and he has lots of similar ideas to Dr. Plagman. I think he’d bring a great message to the students,” Greubel explained.

The other pieces of the proposal were for department head teachers to hand out diplomas, and for counselors to read off the seniors names at the ceremony. “The motivation behind the counselors saying the names was less about [not having] the principal saying it and more about ‘how can we get more adults involved in the ceremony’, because normally the only adults who really talk at the ceremony are the principal and superintendent. It was more about how can we get more adults who we interact with on a daily basis involved,” explained Grant.

The seniors worked diligently to see their plan to fruition. “All three parts of their proposal are approved and [the administration is] very proud of the voice and their advocacy and leadership that [the seniors] have shown,” Grant said.

Grant is extremely proud of the initiative, even though it removes him from a large part of the ceremony. “I don’t have any reservations against [not reading the names]. My role as principal is I represent our student body and our teaching staff. I feel good about this because it lets me know that we are inspiring students to take a stand for what they want to do. Ceremonies like this aren’t about the adults, I’ve already had a graduation. It’s not about me. I’ll still be able to speak about the senior class and what they’ve accomplished.  I think that [wanting the counselors to call names] is an outstanding thing. It doesn’t worry me,” Grant said.

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Seniors Get Major Changes to Graduation Ceremony