Why individuality should matter at graduation

Claire Gelhaus, Editor

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 As graduation approaches, anticipation grows among the senior class with each coming day, and many questions circle around the proceedings for the class of 2019.

  This year, instead of having the top five percent by grade point average or each level of laude distinction walk first and sit in the front, only summa cum laude, the top laude distinction will be recognized.

  “Historically, the top 5 percent of the class by GPA was pulled to the stage to recognize individually. The first year that the class was fully recognized by the laude system was last year,” said D.C. Everest Senior High Principal Mr. Raether.

  This change came with enforcement from Raether that graduation is about the class as a whole, not the individual.

  “It’s the celebration versus ceremony; it’s the class versus the individual; the point of graduation is to celebrate the class,” said Raether.

  Holding the plastic wrapped cap and gown and possibly receiving cords, soon to be worn with pride, are moments high schoolers look forward to. While we are all united by success as graduates, a point emphasized, we can still celebrate the success of the class through individuality and recognizing achievement, of all types.

  A great deal can be said for the unity of a group through diversity, a concept predating D.C. Everest that would both fit the DCE One agenda and togetherness, and allow for student creativity, pride, recognition, and personality.

  Of course it’s true that for some, graduating in itself is an accomplishment, while peers may assume it’s a given on their way to college. Both of these situations are honorable and if more opportunities for recognition were added to the ceremony, each could be recognized. For example, if student A is the first in their family to graduate high school but was in student council, shouldn’t they be recognized for contributing to the school?

  Cords are only given for different laude distinctions, but National Honor Society gives out stoles. It’s understandable to want all graduates to look the same, but a few more colors of stoles or cords would be a far cry from a student not having a cap or gown, or less minor decoration of mortar boards.

  Even less invasive to the sea of green at graduation would be if more classes and clubs could academic letter. Cords and stoles are small but hold great weight for those receiving them, to which that small distinction of their hard work still gives the class the similar appearance, but allows recognition of students who do more than needed, and their passions.

  D.C. Everest doesn’t vote on class superlatives or allow senior quotes, a possible product of extra work for Yearbook, or the continued narrative of class over the student. For 2019 graduates, the new principal brought the possibility of decorating mortar boards, rare for high schools but would allow creativity seniors wanted, and students pushed to change tradition.

  “There’s always concern with a new principal that things are drastically going to change but I want to honor the history and traditions of DC Everest and this a tradition of D.C. Everest so we’re going to honor it this year,” said Raether.

  Similarly, In appleton school district, mortar boards decoration was banned, as it had always been, pushing back against students who wanted the privilege. According to Matt Mineau, principal at Appleton East in an interview for “The Post Crescent”,  “We just really try to make that night about the whole group,” he said.

  The lack of unique decoration is meant to create a sense of unity among graduating students, Mineau said.  Students in Neenah and Kaukauna aren’t allowed to decorate mortar boards either, an issue Appleton senior Emma ross felt was “outrageous.”

   “Here we are, at the most important time in our lives so far, and they want to take that individuality away from us,” she said. “It’s a way for a lot of people to express the sentimental things that have gone on for the last four years.”

  It’s understandable to want to recognize the class accomplishment of graduating, but allowing a little individuality, through creating more opportunities for cords or stoles, lettering in activities, or decorating mortar boards, could create a deeper unity among the class, celebrating everyone’s special circumstance and passions, all graduating as a whole.