The last class to witness the opening of four years ago has graduated.
The Class of 2012, which numbered just over 400 freshmen the day Lincoln-Way North opened its doors in 2008, filed across the stage Monday, June 4 to collect their diplomas.
Their commencement exercise marked the end of an era for Lincoln-Way North as future classes will have no recollection of the marching band, balloon launch or group photo taken of students and staff that inaugural day.
“For the first time next fall, Lincoln-Way North will be without students who remember that first day of Lincoln-Way North,” stated Dr. Michael Gardner, principal.
“For the first time, no student at Lincoln-Way North will have the ability to walk to the picture by the front stairway and point to his friends or his family, exactly where he or she was on that historic day,” he added.
The momentous occasion not lost on Senior Class President Darouny Phouybanhdyt.
“Together, as the Class of 2012, we have made history,” she told classmates. “We are the first class to graduate after attending this school for four years; that is an honor. Our class will be the first class to be remembered for creating a legacy for this school.”
The Class of 2012 was led onto the field Monday night by Valedictorian Raymond Michuda and Salutatorian Nileema Patel as the Lincoln-Way North music department played “Land of Hope and Glory” by Elgar.
Seniors Mitchell Esposito, Michael Faloona, Eli Ramirez and Drake Sands sang the National Anthem while Michuda and Phouybanhdyt addressed the students.
“One of the best parts about our school is that we are a strong community,” Michuda told his classmates. “Most of us have known each other; we basically grew up together. We were together as freshmen, when we were a little less tall and a lot less mature than we are now. We didn’t know it at the time, but we were bound to change from children to adults here at North. And tonight, we are all together for the last time.
“I have mixed feelings about this,” he added. “I feel sad but excited, worried but hopeful, regretful but appreciative. I feel … strange.”
He encouraged students to take a look around them and remember the sights and sounds before them.
“As you move on in life, don’t forget about your time in high school because it’s part of who you are,” said Michuda. “To value your past is to value yourself. I’m not suggesting that we live in the past; I’m just saying that we shouldn’t forget the awesome friends and memories we made at North.”
An hour before students filed onto the field, members of the senior class presented the district and Board of Education with a class gift. The gift, which was purchased with proceeds from candy sales and other fundraisers, is a marquee at the entrance to Lincoln-Way North that will share key dates and messages with the community as they drive by the school.
The gift was unveiled by Senior Class Officers Darouny Phouybanhdyt, president; Dena Waldier, vice president; Imani Simmons-Elloie, secretary; and Nicole Stepuszek, treasurer; as well as senior class sponsor Sarah O’Connell.
“The sign will allow us to always remember the legacy the class of 2012 leaves behind,” said Gardner.
Board of Education President Arvid Johnson addressed the graduates on behalf of the school board and offered his heartfelt hope that they fail and fail frequently.
“Now before you think that I’ve completely lost my mind – and your parents get too upset with me – I would like to explain why this is my wish for you,” he said. “You see, when you fail, something is going right, and you have an opportunity to learn. Let me say that again because it bears repeating: when you fail, something is going right, and you have an opportunity to learn.
“… failing is a sign of something good – namely, that you took a chance and left your comfort zone and had an opportunity to grow,” he continued. “You see, the surest way never to fail is to play it safe and not try anything new; however, that is a path to stagnation and the slow death of your creativity and spirit. But when you take a chance – whether it’s studying a subject that you find particularly difficult … or trying to master a new sport or hobby … or asking someone to dance—while you may fail, there’s also a chance that you may succeed and grow beyond your present limitations.”
Looking back, Gardner said he will remember the Class of 2012 as one that made an impact on the community through their community service work and their respect for people of different colors and religions.
“You were blind to skin color, blind to one’s religion, blind to one’s heritage, blind to the language spoken in homes different from yours, blind to gender bias and blind to socioeconomic status,” he said.
“You have come together as a class, closer today than yesterday, close forever,” he added. “You are after all 100 percent Phoenix. Congratulations Class of 2012. You will be missed and remembered. You are forever gold.”