The stage was set, as families waited nervously to finally see their graduates, and grandparents fanned themselves with programs to chase away the heat, listening to the opening music of the King High band.
Except the King High band is a rock band, and the 37 members of the King High Class of 2013 walked down the aisles to the strains of “Pomp and Circumstance” played on electric guitar.
The King High ceremony, which took place Wednesday evening at the Brunelle Performance Hall at Davis High School, was highly personal, evocative of the school’s atmosphere. King High teachers and staff presented the graduates with their diplomas, introducing each one, often spending several minutes relating how they connected with and what they learned from a certain student. Hugs almost always capped the grads’ moments on the stage.
One student had been asked to make a rap appropriate to school, and wrote “Rugrats State of Mind,” about childhood; one student became the first person in his family to graduate from high school after his mother had fled the civil war in Guatemala; another student who had repeated first grade finally completed her lifelong goal of graduating the same time as her original class, as King High’s only graduating junior.
After the presentation of diplomas, students received a rose from a member of the Davis school board.
Teacher Theo Buckendorf, himself a graduate of King High, spoke about graduate Thomas Garcia, whom he affectionately called the “man in black,” after his preferred clothing color. Buckendorf talked at length about how gratified he felt teaching and finally befriending Garcia.
Speaking of his early glimpses of Garcia’s personality, Buckendorf said, “I got to know Thomas like an inmate must get to know the landscape beyond the walls.”
Buckendorf presented Garcia with a specially dyed black rose, in honor of his nickname.
“He was a really hard nut to crack, so to speak. And I felt fortunate that I was the staff member to get past his arm,” Buckendorf said after the ceremony. “He keeps everything, particularly teachers, at arm’s reach.”
Garcia said he felt “triumphant.”
“I don’t think I would have gotten it at any other school. This school certainly makes you feel unique.,” Garcia said, speaking about the black rose, before adding: “King rocks.”
“I love the family feel of King High School. It’s a wonderful place for students, who come to it for all different kinds of reasons,” Davis Board of Education President Sheila Allen said. “The faculty and students really work together to make sure every student makes it to the goal line. It’s a special place.”
Many students had fought hard to be standing at graduation, including Elizabeth Warden, a student mother.
“(King High) just changed everything around, because I honestly didn’t even care to graduate,” Warden said. She believes her successful completion of high school will help her son, Elijah, to graduate.
Elizabeth’s mother and grandmother were there to cheer her on.
“It’s wonderful,” said Nancy Warden, Elizabeth’s mother. “I wasn’t sure. I didn’t know if she would make it through. But she pulled it through. Great parent, great student.”
The ceremony was bittersweet, as King High Principal Kim Wallace made her goodbyes. Wallace will be moving to a new position at the district office and will be replaced by Jeff Rogers.
“This has been an amazing journey with these kids,” Wallace said in her introductory speech. “There’s a story with every kid, and how they come to us is not always how they leave us.”
“This was special class for me,” Wallace said later. “I feel like I had a connection with every one of them. It’s a good note to go out on.”
Members of the King High School Class of 2013 are: Fernando Barba, Nick Bernauer, Aaron Carnes, Marcus De La Cruz, Geron Earnest, Monica Enriquez, Bonnie Faria, Cristian Flores, Audrey Fulk, Christian Garcia Gallegos, Thomas Garcia, Luis Gasca, Bianca Gonzales, Saul Gonzalez Sanchez, Moises Guadarrama, Patricia Harlan, Raul Heredia, Juan Marcos, Jake Martinez, Anthony Massey, Larry Meyers, Sam Miller, Christiana Munson, Mariah Murray-Clark, Susana Patino, Angel Quezada, Jesse Reyes-Zaragoza, Stephanie Reyes-Zaragoza, A.J. Rinaldi, Ashley Scoggins, Johnathon Sierra, Brianna Sperry, Avital Van Leeuwen, Elizabeth Warden, Keano Whitmore, Ryan Wooten, William Zafra-Eckels.