CONGRATS Class of 2023! GEHS celebrates graduating seniors; ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World’

Lynne Hermansen
Gardner News

Gardner Edgerton High School held its 121st annual commencement on Saturday.

The morning was a perfect sunny, spring day with very little wind for the 432 exuberant senior high school graduates who sat on the football field at the district activity complex.

The Class of 2023 had one of the most unusual high school careers. Their freshmen year began normally until school closed at spring break for what they thought might be an extra week because of the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, but never reopened. The next couple of years were spent hybrid with only their senior year as a “normal year” academically.

Class vice president Adelyn Meder said the class wanted to thank the teachers, administrators, coaches and sponsors.

“These individuals have dedicated their lives to motivating, supporting and empowering our lives,” she said. “And for that, we are truly grateful.”

Festivities began with a concert conducted by the Gardner Edgerton High School Trailblazer band. The choir led everyone in “The National Anthem.”

The Class of 1973 was recognized for their 50th Class Reunion. Many recognitions and acknowledgments were given for the top 1 percent, 3 percent and 10 percent academic students, National Honor Society members, Kansas Designated Scholars, Kansas ACT Scholars, students who completed the Kansas Scholars Curriculum and the Academic Hall of Fame.

Kenneth Morgan received the Pat Meyer Outstanding Service Award, which is presented to the senior who most represents the dedication, leadership and love of learning and selfless giving to the school. The award, which is voted on by school faculty, is named in honor former instructor, Pat Meyer, who demonstrated those qualities throughout his years of service. GEHS Principal Frank Bell said Morgan was “the perfect example of servant leadership.”

Bell said Saturday’s graduation would not have been possible without the lifeblood of the school: the teachers and staff.

“In a time when it has never been more difficult to be an educator,” he said. “Seniors for 13 years they have been the ones to inspire you, to motivate you and to educate you.”

Bell also told students that it was the loved ones in their lives who had been the most pivotal to get them to where they stood by walking the journey with them.

Alexis Schart was selected by school administrators and staff to present the class with her essay, “On To the Next Chapter.” Her essay spotlighted the unusual four years they experienced with the pandemic.

“To say the least, everyone had a unique and eventful experience,” she said. “But we made it. It is unimaginable to finally say the words, ‘We graduated.’”

Schart told her classmates how they would remember the memories made along the way, and how their lives had just begun.

“We are not only the Class of ‘23, but we are Trailblazers,” she said. “Be proud. Be unapologetically yourself and never look back.”

Social studies teacher Derrick Abromeit was chosen to give his speech about graduation day 40 years later and was introduced by class president Jackson Elsey.

Abromeit compared today’s trends to those when he graduated in 1983, and shared his emotions he felt preparing to graduate that day.

“I know what you are thinking, ‘1983. That’s 40 years, no way, Abromeit can’t be that old?’” he said. “‘He looks so young. I thought he was in his 30s. I thought he just dyed his hair to look more distinguished.’”

Abromeit said his imagination back then would have never come to this.

“My life, my world is shockingly different than anything I could have ever imagined,” he said.

Abromeit said there were things he never thought would change — from the USSR, the Denver Broncos not winning the Superbowl and kids still listening to the rock band, Metallica — and surprised by things that did change — such as jean shorts not being cool, high school boys still rocking mullets and everyone owning a computer and accessing the world from the cell phone in their pocket.

Abromeit said he missed certain things from 1983, including Barry Manilow, Walkmans, Saturday morning cartoons, his first car with an 8-track player and his waterbed.

But there was one thing that Abromeit said he knew 40 years ago — he was going to be a teacher, and he was funny.

“This is the part where you nod to your neighbor and say it is true, ‘Yes I loved him; I loved his class,’” he said.

Abromeit said the one thing that also hadn’t changed in 40 years was asking graduates what they were going to do after high school.

“I hated that question,” he said. “It is fair to say you have no clue. You don’t know what your world will be like in 40 years.You will go places and do things you can’t imagine.”

Abromeit told students that no matter what their future held the one thing they could rely on was kindness and spreading kindness from the smallest to the biggest gestures, not living in fear, living big and not settling.

“If the reason you aren’t taking an opportunity is because of fear, then I think you are doing it wrong,” he said. “Give life a shot. Be yourself. Take a risk.”

Abromeit said kindness was important to him, and those who knew him knew that about him.

“Be nice to people,” he said. “Not only is it easy, but it will it make you feel better to do so.”

Abromeit said not living in fear and being kind made a difference since it was the only thing they could control in their lives, and it would open their worlds.

Also speaking was Superintendent Dr. Brian Huff, who told the audience how it was a fabulous day for graduation and thanked Bell for ordering the nice weather.

“I wish you success as you pursue your adult dreams, and I hope you remember your Trailblazer years with fondness,” he said.

This was Huff’s first graduation as the new superintendent and thanked the Gardner and Edgerton community’s for welcoming him and his family with open arms.

“We are now Blazers and that feels pretty darn good,” he said.

Huff told graduates to thank those who helped them throughout their 13-year academic journey.

The graduation ceremony closed with the song, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” and a countless supply of love, tears, hugs and celebrations with air horns, foot stomping and enthusiastic shouts from friends and family.

Bell told graduates how no one could take away the diplomas they received.

“We are hoping this is only the start, only the first chapter you are writing,” he said.

Bell recited the opening lines of the Tears for Fears song. It’s the opening guitar riff, he said, that took him right back to the 1980s.

“Welcome to your life,” he said. “There is no turning back. Everybody wants to rule the world.”

Bell said one writer said the song spoke to the anxieties of every age.

“Perhaps the lyrics of the bridge speak true to us today,” he said. “There is a room where the light won’t find you. Holding hands while the walls come tumbling down. When they do, I’ll be right behind you.”

Finally, the 2023 class quote was, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decode where to go…” by Dr. Seuss,’ “Oh, the Places you’ll Go!”