WOODSTOCK – Standing alone just outside the south doors of Woodstock High School, Jesus Rodriguez held a cellphone to his ear with one hand, a blue cap and tassel dangling from the other.
He was about 25 minutes shy of the ceremony that would mark his transition from student to graduate, and he was phoning a classmate to catch up with him before the pomp and circumstance.
“I’m kind of scared,” the 18-year-old said when asked about the momentous occasion. “I’m going to leave high school forever, go on to my ‘big’ life, be on my own, get a job.”
Rodriguez, as well as the 217 other members of his class, embarked on their post-high school journeys after a sweltering but nonetheless inspiring ceremony Sunday afternoon.
Proud grandmother Coletta Baumann of Pingree Grove was among the many relatives and friends there to witness it all.
“We’re here [representing] four generations,” said Baumann, grandmother of 17-year-old graduate Crystal Micek.
Baumann noted that along with her were Micek’s mother, Angel Cole; stepdad, Kevin Cole; great-grandmother, Delores Coughlin; and more.
“I’m gonna cry,” Baumann said. “I’m gonna cry.”
Sitting behind Baumann on the bleachers, two dozen dark pink roses at her side, Angel Cole already was dabbing her eyes with tissue before the graduates entered the James M. Shipley Memorial Gym, perhaps for the last time.
Soon they all were listening as Class of 2013 co-President Hannah Elizabeth Little said she hoped her classmates would find and live in their element.
“When people are in their element, they connect with something fundamental to their sense of identity, purpose and well-being," she said, quoting from “The Element,” by Sir Ken Robinson. "Time passes differently, and they are more alive, more centered and more vibrant than at any other time.”
Valedictorian Grant Jacob Stec said the class is prepared for whatever lies ahead.
“As we leave the school today, know that over the next few years, our experiences in high school will be an incredible asset both inside and outside of the classroom,” he said.
Class co-President Samantha McLaughlin used movies as her muse, wrapping her dialogue with a friendly admonition.
“Unlike Hollywood, our lives get only one take,” she said. “So write your own script and perform all your own stunts. It won’t matter if you make mistakes. The bloopers always end up being the funniest part."