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DAY TO REMEMBER: La Grande High School graduates Kelsey Schaures, left, and Kim Austin hug each other following Saturday's commencement ceremony. (The Observer/DICK MASON).
DAY TO REMEMBER: La Grande High School graduates Kelsey Schaures, left, and Kim Austin hug each other following Saturday's commencement ceremony. (The Observer/DICK MASON).

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

Mistakes are an integral part of life; so are friends who are there for us in time of need.

Andrew Kiemnec, the co-valedictorian of the La Grande High School class of 2002, linked the two during the LHS commencement ceremony on Saturday.

"I believe that mistakes are a hard way to learn important lessons in life. ... When we make mistakes, other areas of our lives become clearer. The people that believe in us make themselves known, through words, support and hugs. They are there for us always.''

Kiemnec urged his classmates to stay in contact with these individuals.

"Hold on to these people and don't let them slip away to just a memory,'' the LHS senior said.

Kiemnec also encouraged his classmates to follow the lead of these individuals.

"Ask yourself if you can be called one of the people others can count on, no matter what,'' Kiemnec said.

He is one of 160 LHS students who received their diplomas Saturday. Just two, co-valedictorians Kiemnec and Beth Youngblood, had 4.0 cumulative grade point averages. Youngblood, an accomplished violinist, played the piece, "Ashokan Farewell," during her valedictorian presentation.

Those who were saluted on Saturday included a classmate, Casey Daggett, who died on May 30, 1999, at the age of 14 by drowning. LHS Senior Class President Heath Sell paid a moving tribute to Daggett.

"There is someone who should be with us today but unfortunately he is not. He was a lovable goof ball. Casey was my friend. We love you, buddy,'' Sell said.

A page of the LHS graduation program contained a photograph of Daggett and was dedicated to his memory.

LHS social studies teacher Jerry Sebestyen gave the commencement address. He urged the class of 2002 to seek out people who give them feelings of hope.

"Find an individual who can lift and inspire you. I hope you will be someone who can do the same for others,'' the popular teacher said.

He also urged graduates to be compassionate.

"I hope you always keep your heart open with feelings for the problems of your fellow human beings,'' he said.

Sebestyen added that he hopes that the graduates will teach and give to the young people of their communities. He noted that everyone is asked sometime to coach or lead a youth project.

"An old expression I heard long ago said, ‘Nobody stands as tall as someone who stoops down to help a child,' '' Sebestyen said.

The social studies teacher also told the graduates that he hopes that someday they will be told, "The world was a better place because you were a part of it.''

At least 2,500 people attended Saturday's ceremony in the LHS gym.

The total included 55 La Grande elementary school, middle school and high school teachers and staff members.

Music was performed by the LHS band and a capella choir. The band's numbers included "Pomp and Circumstance."

The choir sang, "Let the Words of My Mouth'' and "My Friends We Now Must Leave Thee.''


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