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Changes are planned for Belle Plaine commencement

By ROXANNE DASS

Graduation will be different this year at Belle Plaine High School.

According to Belle Plaine High School Principal Dennis Phelps, the senior breakfast will be replaced with an evening awards ceremony and the graduation ceremony will be a little shorter.

“We thought about the seniors and how we would work with them to try and get a little better connection with those around them during graduation,” he said.

In years past, the school would hold a senior breakfast for the senior class on the Tuesday or Wednesday before graduation at the country club. According to Phelps, the breakfast was always a rushed affair.

“We would have students or teachers scrambling back to class,” he said. “Or we would have people who couldn’t even attend.”

During the breakfast, some awards and scholarships were handed out to students. Phelps said students weren’t able to speak to each other and those presenting the awards because of the time constraints.

“Students couldn’t spend time together (during the breakfast) and they didn’t have time to make connections with those honoring them with their awards and scholarships,” he said.

While the senior breakfast was short and often hurried, the actually graduation ceremony took up to two hours, starting at 3 p.m. and sometimes running until 5 p.m.

During the ceremony, students were always awarded scholarships and awards along with receiving their diploma. Phelps noted that students didn’t have time to converse with each other and connect with scholarship and award presenters during the ceremony.

“They got handed their diploma and had to run off so the next person could come up,” he said.

The long ceremony was also a problem for family members. Extended family of students would often come from out of town or out of state. By the time the ceremony was finished, family members sometimes had to leave right away.

“Family members would have to leave and couldn’t attend graduation receptions because the next day is Monday and they have work or their kids have to go to school,” he said. “Hopefully with the shorter ceremony, family might be able to stay a little longer.”

Changes

In place of the senior breakfast and instead of presenting awards and scholarships during graduation, seniors will be honored during an evening event, the Red Carpet Senior Night.

The senior night will be held on Wednesday, May 19, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the King Theater in downtown Belle Plaine.

Without students and teachers having to run to class after the awards, Phelps said he is hopeful more can attend.

Phelps also said he hopes the new format can get the community more involved.

“I think it’s kind of a neat opportunity for the school and the city to do an event in the downtown area and tie that community concept in together,” he said.

The Red Carpet Senior Night will have a Hollywood feel, complete with a red carpet for the seniors and pop and popcorn for the audience.

“I think it will be really interesting and kind of special,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like this before.”

Belle Plaine High School student body President Tony Jones said with a shorter graduation ceremony, he hopes to add to the event.

“Now I am searching for a possible commencement guest speaker for an address to the Class of 2010,” he said.

Jones thinks the speaker would be a short, but interesting addition to the commencement ceremony.

“A guest speaker would be a great add-on to the annual ceremony, and would not add much time to the overall service,” he said.

Student reaction

So far, Phelps said the seniors have been receptive to the idea of changes to in graduation.

“A lot understand the idea to move the graduation along and be done a little sooner,” he said.

Jones said at first the senior class had an “I don’t care” attitude, but after realizing it would give them more time to spend with family and friends, students became more enthusiastic.

“Many students like the idea at present time so the majority are all right with the move,” he said.

“I think the changes will allow the community people to come and observe the scholarships and be more involved with everything,” said Phelps. “We’re definitely excited in the office and it will be a special evening and ceremony for (the seniors.)”

Jones said he feels the changes will be good for not only this year’s senior class, but all graduating classes to follow.

“Basically, I feel it’s a great  move and I think this senior class will benefit from it along with future classes,” said Jones.

UPDATED April 14, 2010 11:56 AM

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