Many families recently experienced graduation season. It’s that time of year when people travel from far and wide to gather and witness their graduate receive his or her school diploma. My boyfriend Don Welch’s family was no exception when his youngest child, Dane, recently graduated from Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando, Fla.
Over the span of a week, we made a total of five trips to Orlando International Airport to pick up Don’s family all flying in from either Oregon or Idaho. The family includes, including in order of arrival: Travis Limerick, set to wed his oldest daughter; Jocelyn Welch, his oldest daughter; his mom, Nora Sonne, and her husband, “Papa” Don, along with Don’s identical twin brother, Dan Welch; Julia Presler, his youngest daughter; and the last to arrive, Josh Presler, his son-in-law.
In“really hot” and “unbelievably humid” Florida for a span of about 10 days, Don’s family excitedly stayed in his new home, swam in our pools, visited area sites and attractions, and, of course, looked forward to the upcoming main events being Dane’s graduation ceremony and the planned After Party.
Finally, The Big Day arrived and we haggled as we figured out how to get everyone a shower time and assigned seat in a car to get to the downtown Orlando Arena in time for the big event.
Upon arrival, we received programs that included a separate listing of Honors Diploma recipients. Don nearly busted with pride as we scanned the Honors Diploma listing and saw on page two, column four, 17 names down “Dane Welch.” I immediately ran back to the door and grabbed extras to share with family and friends that could not attend the actual event.
At the beginning of the ceremony, the school’s principal announced that alternating lights would flash on stage with a green light indicating it was time for the audience to cheer for the graduates and the red light indicating we were to remain quiet and respectful following the announcing of each graduate’s name to walk on stage and receive his or her diploma. This gentleman truly gave a nice pep talk about how they had devised this system last year and were using it again to allow everyone the opportunity to actually hear their graduate’s name announced. Seriously…did this guy really think his little speech along with the Red Light/Green Light system would work?
I actually first noticed the red light coming on at the presentation of the valedictorians. Nope, the light system didn’t quite work as cheers erupted throughout the arena. Perhaps the audience had momentarily forgotten their instructions and once again the gentleman patiently reviewed the Red Light/Green Light system before the lengthy reading of the graduates began.
Following the announcement of the first name, “Meera Aggarwal,” a small group of cheers went up in a targeted area of the arena. Oops, maybe her family had slipped up and momentarily forgotten the rules. On to the reading of second name: “Musa Ahmed.” Oh my goodness…once again cheers were heard. As the reading of the names continued, so did the cheering and its noise level. At various times, he admonished the audience’s cheering asking that we please observe the red light. Let’s all be honest. This system certainly didn’t work last year and would never work this year. Why? This audience consisted of family and friends who had traveled great distances to attend this ceremony and, over the years, had supported these students from small children through to the pinnacle of their public school careers. In my opinion, obviously supported by everyone else in the arena, THIS was the time for everyone to cheer and openly display pride in their sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters, brothers and sisters, cousins, best friends, or whatever relationship their graduate represented to them.
We had quite a long wait until the reading of the “W” names. We commented and laughed at the loudness of some of the families gathered and admired how many had quite sizable groups on hand to cheer for their graduate. Some groups blasted loud air horns that emphasized their cheering and increased their noise levels. I chatted with the couple seated directly to my right and discovered they had only two on hand in their “cheer group.” So, I promised to cheer along with them following the reading of their child’s name. And I did.
It’s coming up…only three more…get ready…”
And then finally, “Dane Welch” was announced. Don’s family and I all cheered at the appropriate moment and at the top of our lungs. We wanted Dane and everyone within ear shot to know how proud we were of him. His father’s eyes teared a bit as he came to the realization this was the last of his brood to reach this milestone. He had come to the end of a long road and had successfully raised three children proudly witnessing the last to receive a high school diploma; and it was an Honors Diploma at that.
We cheered. And we cheered at the top of our lungs. Dane did his family proud and deserved the recognition. Be damned the red light. We cheered.