Plan to move grads is rejected
By Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer
Dec 2, 2013, 12:02
HOPEWELL — At a senior class meeting at the beginning of November, a discussion began to consider moving the graduation ceremony for Hopewell High School to the gymnasium instead of at Merner Field. Once the announcement of the proposal was made, the seniors immediately took a stand against the change.
Dr. Rodney Berry, principal at Hopewell High, said that when the proposal was made at the class meeting, it was due to the success of holding graduation in the gym last June, which was prompted by the weather.
“Traditionally it was held in the gym,” Berry said. “In the mid-70s, they started moving it outside to Merner Field and the reason why it was moved outside was that the gym did not have air conditioning.”
One of the benefits Berry cited for having it in the gym was the cost savings. By moving it from the field into the gym at the school, Berry estimated it saves as much as 50 percent, in terms of not only money but man hours.
“You save in terms of time too because there’s some man hours that goes into
setting up because really you have to set up at Merner Field and you have to set up in the gym as a backup plan.”
Though the students understood the reasons financially, as well as logistically, for moving it into the gym, the majority were not pleased with the proposal. Tyler Jordan, senior class president, said the students came to him expressing their disdain for the option and wanted him to be their voice for the administration.
“They were upset,” Jordan said of the reaction at the meeting. “There were actually some students who were crying.”
Jordan said many of the tears flowed from the fact that if the graduation ceremony were to be held in the gym, it would limit the amount of people the students could invite, thus forcing them to make the decision of who would not be able to see them graduate in person.
Though understanding why his classmates were not pleased with the possibility of moving it into the gym, Jordan did understand the administration’s recommendation.
“We know for the pro on having it inside, they said last year and I saw some of the pictures of it, was really smooth and it looked really nice inside,” Jordan said.
Armed with passion and determination, the students, as well as parents, attended the School Board meeting on Nov. 12 to speak to the board on tradition and the importance of keeping the graduation on the football field at Merner.
Susan Wade, a graduate of Hopewell High School, was in attendance at the board meeting and said many attended to have their voices heard, including a cheerleader from the school, a retired Navy veteran, and Tyler Witt, the student body treasurer.
“One parent was moved to tears while he was speaking about the importance of continuing the tradition of graduation at Merner field so that more of our student’s family and friends and community can join in this monumental moment,” Wade said in an email. “I myself graduated from Merner Field, my son’s father, sister and two aunt’s graduated from Merner Field, why should he not be allowed the same tradition that all of our seniors have looked forward to for years.”
Following the board meeting, Berry decided to get the senior class involved in what he called the “democratic process.” With the election just coming to a close in November, Berry said it was a good time for students to learn how to cast their vote to have their voices heard.
Ballots were drawn up with pros and cons listed of having the graduation ceremony at either location. After almost two days of collecting ballots to give to Berry, the students overwhelmingly voted to keep the graduation at Merner Field.
“It will be at Merner Field on June 7th at 10 am,” Berry said. “... I take my hat off to the kids. They did it in the right way and they did approach me in terms of their concerns and I appreciate that. It’s their graduation and we try to listen to their concerns and make sure we have a nice graduation for all of our seniors. I think the outcome is the best outcome for our seniors.”
Berry said that decision is usually left to the administration but in this case he felt it appropriate to allow the students to make the decision.
Jordan was also pleased with not only the outcome of the vote but the way his classmates came together as one voice.
“It made me proud we were involved,” Jordan said.
The only change that Berry would like to see at the graduation ceremony this year is the dress code of the guests in attendance, such as collared shirts for the men, “just look more presentable than it has in the past.”