Amber Jordan worked 12 years for the big day. And when it arrived, it poured rain.
Amber was one of the 249 Thomson High School graduates who marched in the rain to receive their diploma during commencement Saturday night in The Brickyard.
"I'll have a story to tell my kid one day," Amber said after the ceremony. "My feet hurt, I'm wet, I'm cold and I just want a warm shower. But it was all worth it."
Members of the Board of Education, school administrators, teachers and friends and family members of the graduates huddled under umbrellas during the ceremony, while the only shelter the graduates had was their caps and gowns.
But the rain did not put a damper on their spirits. Assistant Principal of Curriculum and Instruction Lynn Cato said the students "were determined to march outside in The Brickyard even though they knew about the rain." Ms. Cato said there were alternate plans to hold the ceremony in the gym, but that would limit the number of guests each student could bring. So high school officials decided to proceed with the Brickyard ceremony.
"After working all those years to get their diploma, I think they wanted to invite everybody and not just five family members. It's a lot more of a celebration in The Brickyard where you can seat 3,000," she said.
Class of 2009 Valedictorian Sam Lemley, Salutatorian Brianna Hart and Honor Graduates Elizabeth Hawkins, Ethan Holliman, Tim Pounds and Crystal Reese had parts speaking during the ceremony, which was themed on a quote by Harriet Tubman - "Always remember you have within you the strength, patience and passion to reach for the stars and to change the world."
Sam's speech was on the riches of strength, which he identified as discipline, responsibility and accomplishment.
"Discipline encourages us to pursue our dreams, rather than trade them for a less fulfilling alternative," he said. "Because of our training and discipline, we have reached the goal of graduation. ... Yes, Class of 2009, we are strong; and in this strength, we are indeed rich."
Ethan described how rare the gift of patience is in the "instant gratification generation," and how schedules, deadlines and timetables create impatience.
"At last, we graduate," Ethan said to his classmates. "But the dream does not stop here, for we have the gift of high school success to encourage us to hope for that which is beyond this place. Our patience has revealed to us new directions, new ideas and broader horizons. The possibilities are endless for those who patiently dream."
Finally, Brianna told the class they were "basking in the fulfillment of where our passions have led - graduation."
"Few dreams materialize without passion," she said. "Passion demands our attention, challenges our complacency and ignites our spirits. ... Our passions have driven us in many directions, which have led us here tonight."
It was that achievement that brought smiles to the graduates' faces, even in the rain. They laughed as they returned from receiving their diplomas and sat down in chairs that were puddled with water. They laughed again as Crystal instructed them in the ring and tassel ceremony.
"Class of 2009, until now, you have worn your tassel to the right. Now, take your tassel, ring it out and then move it from the right to the left," she said.