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Class of ’97

ELAINE MARSHALL

The sun shined long enough last week to grace the graduation of Tahoe-Truckee High School’s Class of ’97 at Surprise Stadium.

Late Saturday morning, 145 students filed onto the field as parents strained for a good photo, yelling for their children to look their way.

Many seniors’ flare for individuality stood out from their gowns. Two girls went barefoot. Some of the boys wore sandals with socks. Many wore snowboard-style sunglasses. Co-Valedictorian Shannon Baker-Branstetter wore two different shoes and two different striped socks.

In her commencement speech, Baker-Branstetter talked about the importance of living in the present. She encouraged people to let go of the past and the future, and instead focus on today.

“There is so much pride and happiness here,” she said. “I see the beauty of today and all the days to come.”

Co-Valedictorian Onawa Mock reminded listeners to travel through life with love and good memories.

“Today is the official end of our childhood,” Mock said. “We will carry with us those memories of every moment preceding us…May you all give love freely and receive twice as much in return.”

Merri McKee, who teaches art and drama, and government and economics teacher Doris Lucchesi were chosen by the Class of ’97 as honorary graduates, a break from the tradition of voting 10 teachers as honorary guardians.

“These were people who we felt made a profound difference and taught us something we can use as we move into the next phase of our lives,” said Class President Jacob McGregor.

“This is a unique class. They’ve started some new traditions,” said Principal Dennis LeBlanc of the record nine salutatorians. Salutatorians are: Claire Binker, Christine Bjerkhoel, Myka Boreen, Ashley Burrill, Michelle Hill, Wong Yu Khaw, Chalsey Phariss, Benjamin Ritchie and Ashley Rosenow.

Ashley Burrill, president of the Associated Student Body, was formally appointed to the U.S. Air Force Academy. Out of 40,000 who applied to the Academy, Burrill was one of only 1,200 chosen.

Following was a long list of scholarship winners who received a total of more than $50,000 of scholarships raised by area organizations.

The anticipated end of high school arrived at last. After diplomas had been passed out, Burrill lead the changing of the tassels, caps flew into the air and an AC/DC song blasted from the speakers. Friends and family poured onto the field for hugs, tears, laughter and snapshots.

“I’m so excited to be done. It’s a big weight off my shoulders and I’m happy to move on,” said Alisha York, who’s been accepted to Hawaii Pacific University.

Maria Kashina, a foreign exchange student from Russia, was looking forward to seeing her friends in Russia but said she was “sorry it was over.”

Jason Lopez also had mixed feelings about moving on to college in Reno.

“I’m a little excited but a little unsure,” Lopez said as he was leaving the field. “I’m leaving friends behind. It’s kind of sad that I won’t be able to see any of these people again.”


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