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A total of 542 seniors graduated from West Springfield High School June 13. The commencement exercises took place at EagleBank Arena at George Mason University.
The high school band performed “Pomp and Circumstance” while the students entered, followed by the West Springfield High School Madrigals singing both the National Anthem and Stephen Paulus’s “The Road Home.”
Senior Class President Leah Knompecher gave the opening remarks, thanking the West Springfield students who befriended her when she first moved to the area.
She continued to encourage her classmates as they begin their next life chapters. “We might find ourselves a bit nervous but excited,” Knompecher said, “just like on that first day of high school. Just remember that you are not alone because all of us are going through it, and thousands of other graduates.”
“What we cannot wait for, what we’re so excited for, is your next great achievement,” said Principal Mike Mukai.
David Larson received the Spartan Award for his school spirit, leadership, and service; Elissa Perdue received the Faculty Award for best representing the school’s ideals; and Jocelyn Highsmith received the Bonnie E. Lilly Award for her school service.
Johnny Pope, the assistant principal, told the students that “in order for you to lead people, you must first know who you are.” Pope also recognized 134 honor graduates receiving a 4.0 or higher before introducing Vinh Do, one of the honor graduates, to the podium.
Admitting to the audience that he’s still a child at heart, Do said, “The only times I’ve ever wished I could grow up faster were when I couldn’t ride the giant spinning swing at Busch Gardens and when they wouldn’t let me get free samples by myself at Costco.”
“Enjoy what’s right in front of you—whatever’s happening right here and now,” said Do. “No one knows what’s going to happen in a year from now, or even tomorrow. . . . You’ll never get this moment back, so claim it as your own.”
Terri Stirk, a West Springfield math teacher retiring after 33 years of teaching, gave the commencement address, sharing experiences and life lessons she learned.
“Learning is a lifelong process, failure is inevitable, and there is more than one way to succeed in life,” said Stirk.
Afterward, the 542 students received their diplomas. After turning their tassels, the newly graduated seniors tossed their caps in the air, saying goodbye to their four years of high school and hello to the first day of the rest of their lives.