2013 Brethren High School graduates take the big step

Brethren High School Class of 2013 graduates decorated their mortarboards with letters and symbols representing their next step in life: college, the military or the workforce. This senior woman is heading for Central Michigan University. (Meg LeDuc/News Advocate)

BRETHREN – Saying, “Today is the day to take the big step,” Brethren High School Class of 2013 Salutatorian Haley Tighe invited her classmates to make the leap into the world beyond high school.

Forty-six young men and women were graduating from Brethren High School on Friday evening. New chapters are starting for them — some are going on to college, while others are joining the military or seeking to join the workforce here at home.

Brethren High School Class of 2013 Salutatorian Haley Tighe accepts her diploma from Principal Marlen Cordes. (Meg LeDuc/News Advocate)

Ambitions range widely. Some of the graduates want to be physical therapists and social workers, others doctors and chefs, auto mechanics and marines. However, the bottom line is clear: It’s a big world out there.

Inside the gymnasium, family and friends packed the bleachers, breaking into raucous cheering at points during the ceremony. They clapped their hands in time to the music as the school band played “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” a tradition at Brethren graduations. Graduating seniors joined the band to play one last time, their blue mortarboards distinct amid the band’s white and black.

Alex Marsh, class valedictorian, praised his classmates in his commencement address: “You do not fear failure,” he told them. “When we face a challenge, we don’t even look at how we can fail, but instead we look at what it will take to succeed.”

Senior Class President Aubrey Robak stood with Julie Riggs, senior class advisor, and told her classmates, “I am so proud of each and every one of you. I know how hard we have worked, and it paying off tonight.”

Riggs broke down at the end of her lengthy speech, in which she recalled memories of each of the graduating seniors from the time they began kindergarten. She got a standing ovation.

“Never forget who you are or where your roots are,” she said. “I love you guys.”

Principal Marlen Cordes awarded the diplomas, then instructed the seniors to move the tassels on their mortarboards from one side to the other. Brenna Richardson led the Brethren High School band in a recessional, as parents rushed to take pictures of their children. Cameras flashed.

One thing was obvious in that gymnasium: This is one close group of kids.

“I know many of us have been looking forward to this day for a long time, but at the same time, we’re sad that’s here,” Marsh said in his speech.

Sadness, joy, nervous jitters, tears. It’s what graduation is all about.

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