Every High School in America is starting its preparation for graduation. Robes are being bought, speakers are preparing their speeches, and seniors are awaiting the day their achievements are recognized and they are able to take the next step into adulthood. In addition to the ceremony, graduation at Burlington High School has a few unique rituals that have become integral to the experience.
Science teacher Lisa Sitek has been at the high school for 15 years.
“I like the way we welcome the freshman when they get here on the first day and we all clap for them and it’s nice at the end when we stand in the back hallway when you’re graduating and clap again,” Sitek said.
While many teachers enjoy this tradition, Sitek acknowledges that this long held practice may not be so enjoyable for the incoming freshmen.
“I think it freaked the freshman out but it’s also like ‘oh wow, they really want us to be here,’” she said.
This first day of high school tradition is echoed at the end of senior year during graduation. Students walk through a hallway of teachers before they enter the gym for graduation.
Larissa Urban has been a BHS guidance counselor for 14 years. She thinks the high school has a very traditional ceremony, something she appreciates.
“I like our graduation. I feel like our graduation goes so seamlessly,” she said. “Students are pretty nervous and excited on graduation day, and to have a sense of order that is predictable in the end is nice for everybody.”
During the actual ceremony the people who are graduating are the focal point of the event.
“It’s always very focused on the graduates, a lot of other graduations are very nice as well but some things are different,” Urban said. “BHS used to have community speakers but they have cut that part out since we tend to have such amazing student speakers and speakers within our school community.”
Social studies teacher Ron MacNeil likes that change. He enjoys the student speakers, which unlike other schools, are elected by seniors. BHS does not rank students individually, and therefore does not have valedictorians.
“Sometimes the valedictorian can be very political. I’ve heard some speakers that have ruffled some feathers and that can be good too,” MacNeil said.
Graduation has evolved over the years to become what it is today. English teacher Tammie Ledoux graduated BHS in the class of 1993.
“I remember that at my own graduation that the girls had to wear white gowns and the boys had to wear blue ones,” Ledoux said.
The music at graduation has also changed over the years. During Ledoux’s graduation the band played music from Phantom of the Opera.
“We marched out of the gym and into the real world […] which in retrospect, is rather ominous music to accompany one’s entrance into adulthood, but I too was obsessed with Phantom, so I loved it!” Ledoux said.
Regarding graduation day mishaps, MacNeil can only recall one incident.
“Somebody streaked about 15 years ago. A kids went up and got his diploma and let’s everything fly and ran out,” MacNeil said.
The ringing of the bell is similar to the gauntlet. On the first day of freshman year and on the last day of senior year students ring the bell in the front of the school. This symbolizes the beginning and end of the BHS experience.
“Oh I love that tradition,” Urban said. “I think traditions are important as long as they are healthy traditions that don’t hurt anybody and make anyone feel left out. Those are healthy traditions that are special and unique to BHS.”