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Departing Lancers scored high test gains
East Union graduates Rachel Bonds and Dakota Anderson make their way to the field. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Lauren Mitchell admitted her fears at East Union High’s commencement exercises.

As co-valedictorian – she shared the top academic honor with Robyn Raker – Mitchell said Friday that some of it had to do with speaking in front of 5,000 friends, family members, and guests packing Dino Cunial Field.

But most of her fears had to do with the uncertainty of the future.

 “The biggest question is: What are you going to do with your life?” said Mitchell, who will be attending the University of Tulsa in the fall. “I don’t have the slightest clue.”

Graduation, as she put it, is the “first link in a chain of events that will define our lives.”

Kevin Chaney, meanwhile, was still trying to grasp the special occasion.

“It hasn’t quite hit me that I’m graduating,” he said.

Chaney earned the right as student speaker via an American Idol-type audition.

“It’s easy to say goodbye to a lot of things. But how do you say goodbye to a big part of your life for the past few years?” he asked.

Salutatorian Jessica Golden also had her take on graduation.

“It’s the epitome of all that you have accomplished for the past 17-, 18-, 19- years of our lives,” she said.

At the 41st commencement exercises, the 338 members of the Class of 2009 took pride in their many accomplishments.

This included the 70-point rise in the state’s Academic Performance Index of a year ago and the A-plus rating given by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

Jennifer Kirby, president of the Advancement Via Individual Determination program, took pride in the 26 members of the group receiving letters of acceptance to 39 colleges and universities. “It was ‘Mission: Possible,’” she said.

Graduation at East Union was also bittersweet as the class acknowledged several retiring longtime instructors.

Included was Stephen Loro, who headed the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corp for the past 12 years; Mark Rice, who, for 24 years, taught physical science and biology; Jon Olson, who worked in special education for 33 years; librarian Jean Miyamoto, who, during her 37 years, also taught English and business; Butch Marliani, who, for the past 35 years, handled health and drivers education (altogether, he worked 45 years as a teacher); and Dean of Athletics Bill Stricker, who also taught math and algebra while also running the boys varsity basketball program for a portion of his 32 years at the school.

Members of the Class of 2009 filed into the stadium with processional tune, “Pomp and Circumstance,” as played by the East Union High Lancer Band under the direction of Terry Silveira.

JROTC presented the colors while student body President Elle Lewis led in the Pledge of Allegiance.

 Amanda Fleig, meanwhile, performed the Star-Spangled Banner.

Brittany Treat, senior class vice president, welcomed those in attendance, with Susan Zaca, senior class president, introducing the special guests. Included were school board members Manuel Medeiros, Wendy King and Assistant Superintendent Don Halseth.

Principal John Alba had the honors of certifying the class.

The graduates became part of Lancer history, but only with one distinction, according to Chaney.

“Our claim to fame is that we’re the Class of 2009,” he said.