ALLIANCE — Unlike the previous year, with ideal weather perfect enough to garner beach balls on either side of the center stage where students sat thanks to low winds and modest temperatures, this year’s graduation was cloudy and warm and without a beach ball in sight. Graduation opened with “Pomp and Circumstance” and the national anthem played by the Alliance High School band, directed by Jerrold Heide.
Principal George Clear welcomed the audience and wished mothers a happy Mother’s Day. Clear, in reference to the graduating class, said, “Four years ago, this class was walking into the Alliance High School wide-eyed and nervous — even if they didn’t admit it — ready to take on high school … Four years later, these students sit before you wiser, smarter and ready to proceed to new adventures that lie before them; college, technical school, the work force, the military — all of these things and more.”
He recited a quote from Theodore Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena” speech and encouraged the class to live life instead of watching it, “You make us proud and we hope for the best for each and every one of you.”
APS Foundation Board Member Dave Ocken then presented the Wall of Fame Recipient, “This year’s outstanding alumnus has recently passed on, but his legacy lives on forever.” He quoted his nomination letter, “It is with great pride that we would like to nominate our dad, grandpa, and great-grandpa Bob Duryea …”
Duryea passed away in April of last year after a courageous 18-year battle against cancer. He graduated from AHS in 1952 and received a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s degree for administration from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He also served in the Army, eventually becoming the business manager for the Alliance Public Schools and served as president to the state’s Business Managers Association of Nebraska. One major accomplishment of his was creating and developing the APS Foundation, later retiring from education in 1988.
Two of his daughters, Dee Nason and Vicki Bolek, honored their father for the nomination with Bolek speaking on behalf of their father, “As we receive this award, we’re here to tell you that there would be no one more honored and more humbled to receive this award than our dad.
“Please join me when I count to three with a shout out of ‘Go Big Blue,’ ” she requested. She counted down before throwing her fist in the air and joining the audience with a spirited “GO BIG BLUE!”
Clear then recognized top scholars at AHS, explaining to the audience about the change from a valedictorian recognition model to a cum laude recognition model, the change agreed upon by the school board and Superintendent Troy Unzicker.
Students with a Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.85 to 3.89 for Cum Laude (with honor): Nathan Fancher and Sydney Nordeen.
Students with a GPA of 3.90 to 3.94 for Magna Cum Laude (with great honor): MaKayla Davidson, Autumn Hoff, KayLee McDonald and Madison Morgan.
Students with a GPA of 3.95 to 4.0 for Summa Cum Laude (with highest honor): Lane Applegarth, Dani Carter, Cameron Collins, Dylan Horton, Jorgen Johnson, Nathan Lauder, Josephine Otto, Grace Tolstedt, Shae Toof and Ashlee Wallesen.
Two graduating senior speeches were given, one by Cameron Collins and another by Grace Tolstedt. Collins grew up on his family farm 10 miles north of Alliance and plans to attend UNL, recognizing the community for opportunities for everyone graduating and are grateful for their support, “We owe a good part of who we are as an individual to you.” He also recognized teachers and school administration as well has his parents.
Tolstedt opened, “Today is the day that we have been waiting for since we have started this journey called school. How many times have we been handed a piece of paper at school, yet we have never anxiously anticipated the receival of one of those papers for years on end like we have this one: a Diploma … Today we will grin, laugh, shout for joy, run into the arms of our family and friends, and some may even cry all because of a single piece of paper.”
She noted that today isn’t about the paper itself, but the memories that represent what that piece of paper means. She encouraged her class to thank the people who helped them find their niche in the world, thanking teachers, to administrators, and to parents and families. She ended on a quote from Eric Roth, “For what it’s worth … I hope you live a life that you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”
Scholarship recipients were then announced: Lane Applegarth, MacKenzie Broderick, Jaiden Brown, Dani Carter, Sophia Collett, Cameron Collins, MaKayla Davidson, Jennifer Davis, Nathan Fancher, Madison Folchert, Tyler Girard, Domonique Harris, Emiliana Hinojosa, Autumn Hoff, Taylor Hopp, Dylan Horton, Haley Hoxworth, Bailey Johnson, Jorgen Johnson, Nathan Lauder, Madisen McCance, KayLee McDonald, Madison Morgan, Aubre Mundt, Josephine Otto, Kelsy Peterson, Cade Pfeiffer, Preston Pohlman, Cherokee Purviance, Tyler Quick, Madison Stark, Serenity Sterkel, Mariah Stewart, Grace Tolstedt, Shae Toof, Kallista Vallejo, Ashlee Wallesen, Taylor Williams, Sharia Williamson and Safyre Yearling.
Seniors enlisted in the armed forces: Bradan Seidler and Ross Dunn for the Marine Corps; and Dylan Horton for the Naval Academy.
Class officers are: President Nathan Fancher, Vice President Dani Carter, Secretary Safyre Yearling, Treasurer Grace Tolstedt, and Class Sponsors Vicki Joule and Laura Schroer. The class flower is a blue and white rose with their class colors following the same theme of blue and white. Class motto is, “Our pasts are behind us. Our lives are before us. Our memories are forever with us.
The ceremony ended with the class song, “Imagine” by John Lennon with graduates throwing their caps in the air as per tradition.