by Victoria Ramirez | staff writer
Walking across the stage, people clapping in the background, and getting handed your diploma is the last moment of a student’s high school journey. Many students look forward to graduation as a next-step into adulthood. However, before graduating, all seniors will attend an assembly to prepare for the big day.
“We will have senior assemblies prior to that time because we have to talk about graduation, you have to get your parking passes, you have to get maps, you have to pick up your cap and gown, we will do a practice here on campus in the morning, I believe it is Wednesday or Thursday prior to graduation, and then from there we will go to the Freeman Coliseum and practice there on the same day. Then on Saturday we meet up for graduation because there are multiple graduations going on there,” principal John Mehlbrech said.
Even though students are technically out of school, behavior is one of the main priorities for students and teachers on graduation day. All students will be expected to be on their best behavior up until the very end.
“We will go through how to walk across the stage, and one of the things about our board is that they are very strictly traditional so you can’t wave, you can’t show up UT signs, you can’t do anything like that because then you get pulled from the stage and you won’t be able to go back out and sit. Then you have to wait till after graduation, under guard, and then not pick up your diploma until Monday you have to come in and see me. So it’s really an all eyes are on you graduation ceremony,” Mehlbrech said.
All expectations will be upheld throughout the whole day on graduation, as well as during the practices leading up to it.
“Basically know that you’re not done yet, behavior wise, expectations will still be the same. We have to be very focused and on task because we don’t have time to mess around. So, I always throw out the threat that if I cant trust you at rehearsals and to make mandatory meetings, I can’t trust you at graduation, so I remove you from the list. I haven’t had to do that at Johnson, I’ve come close, but we have to be very careful with that,” Mehlbrech said.
Regulations include the prohibition of phones, earbuds and other electronics.
“No earbuds, no phones, in fact when you come in we search you, we grab your phones, we used to grab your keys but we don’t do that anymore, but we grab your phones and we put them into a plastic bag with your name on it, and at the end of graduation you can pick them up because we don’t want any distraction factors that are out there in the middle of the floor,” Mehlbrech said.
With each and every student attending the ceremony and walking across the stage, time will be a sensitive subject in the matter of getting everyone in and out as fast as possible.
“About 740 students, we usually get it done in under two hours. With 740 it’s going to be right around that 2 hour range, but we really don’t want to extend it any more than we have to. The longest time is getting everybody across,” Mehlbrech said.
With all the chaos and planning that goes into graduation, teachers and only a few volunteers are allowed backstage.
“We normally don’t have parents back there, because we are hectic, running around, making sure everybody’s dressed right, all the gowns are correct, tassels are on the right side, so no parents are down below. We do ask for teacher volunteers to come in and we need about maybe 20-30 to keep everything going. We have them lined up, and if you see a graduation picture we have rows of teachers on the side in a graduation gown, watching the rows to make sure nobody is doing anything they shouldn’t be doing. Then we have people in the back putting the flowers on, lining them up, making sure everyone’s in their right spot because we have to line up. We do line up and you have a number and you have to remember who’s in front of you and who’s behind you, because when we say line up we are ready to go, we are all ready to go and we start right on time, no excuses,” Mehlbrech said.
With seniors only having a few weeks left until they graduate, Mehlbrech wants to make sure everyone is on their best behavior so everyone can finish with a good ending to their high school careers.
“Graduation is great for you, but it is more than you, your parents, siblings, and rest of your family. [They] are all going to be there to celebrate this moment,” Mehlbrech said.