De Beque’s all-female 2011 class overcomes challenges, setbacks
DE BEQUE — When De Beque High School’s Class of 2011 strolled out of their graduation ceremony Saturday to the music of Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” it summed up the feelings of their senior year.
“It was a fun year,” salutatorian Melissa Jackson said as the six members of the class, all females, mingled with family and friends after picking up their diplomas.
But she and her classmates conceded there have been some trying times during high school too, from their academic challenges to the loss of someone who would have been the only guy to graduate with them.
James Jack died in a car accident his junior year, and valedictorian Shayla Randolph made a point to recognize him during her address Saturday.
“He was always happy and making jokes and brought smiles to everyone he encountered,” she said.
She then presented a certificate of attendance to James’ behalf to his mother, Rita, and sister, Annie.
“He smiled a lot. That’s the one thing I remember most about James — his smile,” Annie Jack said, as she and her mother gathered with James’ grandmother, Adele Crandell, after the ceremony’s conclusion.
Even as this year’s graduates dealt during their high school years with the death of a classmate, they also coped with doubts about their academic prospects.
“Every single one of us struggled, it seemed like, to graduate,” Jackson said.
Many class members had moved to De Beque from elsewhere. At one time, Griselda Landeros was the only girl in their class. Those who joined her had to make the transition from bigger schools to a tiny one.
“It all worked out,” Randolph said. “Everybody here, they’re really great people.”
Not only did the six manage to graduate, but five of them plan to continue their education.
Commencement speaker Al Baumgartle, retired from being a counselor at the school but still active there, said he’s proud of the six for having stuck with it despite the obstacles they faced.
“If I had to choose one term to describe this class it would be perseverance,” he said in his address. “They never quit or gave up.”
He told the graduates, “You have the capabilities to weather tough times because you already have survived tough times to get where you are.”