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Class of ’23 set to graduate

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Washington Auditorium returns as commencement venue Friday 

by Tom Coombe

Graduation night in Ely steps back in time, at least somewhat, this week.

After outdoor events the last three years, prompted first by the Covid-19 pandemic and later because of construction, commencement ceremonies return indoors this year at Ely Memorial High School.

Ely’s graduating class of 2023 will gather Friday night, at Washington Auditorium, for an event that begins at 7 p.m.

The auditorium has been the longtime traditional home of Ely’s graduation ceremonies, but the pandemic led to a “drive-in” event in 2020 at the arena parking lot on the school campus.

The last two years, graduation has been held outdoors at Veterans Memorial Field, with last year’s ceremony moved outdoors because the school’s renovation project made the auditorium unavailable.

The return indoors marks, in some respect, a return full circle for the Class of 2023.

The 43-member group had the last two-and-a-half months of their freshman year disrupted by the pandemic, while their sophomore year they ping-ponged between in-person and distance learning while the district moved forward amid a myriad of Covid-related restrictions.

Masks were still required in school for more than half of their junior year.

The 2022-23 school year brought about a more full return to normal, and the group leaves the high school after achieving much in the classroom, in school activities and in the community.

Before receiving their diplomas Friday night, the Class of 2023 will take part in a commencement that follows local tradition.

Students generally have selected one of their teachers to give the commencement address and Megan Anderson will do the honors this week. She served as principal during much of the senior class’s tenure in the Memorial Building, but returned to the classroom this year.

Seniors Joey Bianco and  Juliet Stouffer will speak on behalf of the class, while both the pop choir and high school band will perform.

Principal Jeff Carey will present the class to superintendent Anne Oelke and board chairman Ray Marsnik, who will participate in presenting diplomas.

Nearly half of the class- some 20 members in all  -  have the acclaim of being an honor student. That distinction requires a grade point average of 3.5 or above.

They are Bianco, Stouffer, Katherine Coughlin, Rachel Coughlin, Margaraet Dammann, Zoe Devine, Sydney Durkin, Courtney Eilrich, Natasha Fulkrod, Gunnar Hart, Jakson Hegman, Phoebe Helms, Cedar Ohlhauser, Elizabeth Omerza, Madeline Perry, Madison Rohr, Grace Sundell, Lillian Tedrick, Audrey Thomas and Kelly Thompson.

The honor students were part of a group that collected over $88,000 in local scholarship funds, and an additional $30,000 in regional awards, earlier this month at the school’s awards day. More than 90 scholarship winners were announced during a ceremony at Washington Auditorium.

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