74 to graduate from Ely Memorial High School

by Tom Coombe

They’ve achieved in the classroom and given to the community.<BR><BR>Their accomplishments on the athletic fields, at speech meets and in music and fine arts have been exemplary.<BR><BR>But there’s one last thing that 74 Ely High School seniors will do together.<BR><BR>That happens Saturday night, when they receive their diplomas and take part in the school’s graduation ceremony.<BR><BR>Set for 7 p.m., the graduation program for Ely Memorial’s Class of 2004 follows Ely tradition, complete with the procession down the auditorium aisles and the presentation of diplomas by school board chairperson Rudy Semja.<BR><BR>In between, class members will sit together on stage for their last formal activity as high school students.<BR><BR>They’ll also hear a few words from one of their instructors. Todd Hohenstein, who teaches science at the high school, will deliver the commencement address.<BR><BR>Hohenstein has taught here just five years but he’s already made quite an impact on the lives of Ely students, in the classroom, as an advisor to the senior class and as a football and track coach.<BR><BR>“I’m honored,” Hohenstein said of his selection as commencement speaker. “This is the eighth-grade class I started with in my first year, so in a way it’s graduation for me, too.”<BR><BR>The graduating class has many honor students and those who have excelled in extracurricular activities, but Hohenstein has noticed other strong traits about the group as a whole.<BR><BR>“They are very much a fun-loving group of kids,” said Hohenstein. “I’ve enjoyed some of the simple things, the great friendships that I’ve sen. But I really see a social responsibility within the crew. There’s more of a community feel to them, which I think is great to see at such a young age.”<BR><BR>The top academic honors for the graduating class - recognition as valedictorian and salutatorian - won’t be determined until after final grades are tabulated. Those in the running are Brian Kess, Julie Anderson and Bria Schurke. <BR><BR>The three top students were also among the winners of the more than 70 area scholarships distributed at the school’s annual awards day three weeks ago.<BR><BR>Kess led the way on stage, taking home eight awards apiece including the prestigious Killen Scholarship. Other Killen winners were Anderson, Lara Doran, Lauren Klun, Tessa Peterson, Kevin Pope, Schurke and Raychal Zupancich.<BR><BR>Kai Bowen was another of the top award-winners, collecting six different scholarships.<BR><BR>Among the students with grade point averages of 3.5 and above are Kess, Schurke, Anderson, Rachel Berg, Bowen, Jakob Dahlin, Doran, Megan Forthman, Drew Hanson, Klun, Joseph Manlove, Ashley Niskala, Jessica Ojala, Peterson, Naomi Poppler, Jaime Skala, Crystal Waters and Zupancich.<BR><BR>Saturday’s program will also include two songs from the high school choir, with one rendition by senior choir members, and several student speeches.<BR><BR>Kess was selected to be the class speaker, while foreign exchange students Giulia Dell’oca and Ingibjorg Sigurdardottir will also say their farewells.<BR><BR>The program is capped by the presentation of the class by principal Joselyn Murphy and the diploma awards. Admission to the commencement ceremony is by ticket only.<BR><BR>A few hours later, most of the class members will return from graduation parties around town for the all-night, class-member-only celebration at the school, set from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.<BR><BR>In existence for 16 years, the chemical-free event has proven to be a popular finale for Ely’s graduating classes.<BR><BR>The seniors have the opportunity to win numerous prizes, including a cash award of $500 and items including TVs and DVD players. Activities include casino games, various other games and events in the gymnasium, open swimming and even scuba diving instruction in the high school pool. Food and beverages have been donated by local businesses.<BR><BR>Those organizing the party are looking for community help in decorating the gymnasium, Wednesday and Thursday nights between 6 and 9 p.m. No experience is necessary and volunteers are invited to come to the gymnasium on one or both of the evenings.<BR><BR>