Sarah O'Connell, left, and Hannah Hansen are all smiles as they depart with their diplomas from the commencement exercises at Kingsland High School.  PHOTOS BY DAVID PHILLIPS/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
Sarah O'Connell, left, and Hannah Hansen are all smiles as they depart with their diplomas from the commencement exercises at Kingsland High School. PHOTOS BY DAVID PHILLIPS/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
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Commencement Friday night at Kingsland featured a surprise in the form of a class gift, a good-bye to more than the students as three faculty members are also leaving the school for retirement and some good memories from the years the students had in the Kingsland school district.

The presentation of the class gift by graduate Mitchell Czapiewski was a first for any graduating class at Kingsland, noted commencement speaker U.S. Judge Donovan Frank, and it signals good things for these graduates, he told the students behind him as he spoke. He noted the importance of giving back to the community because the graduates will find out that the community built them a solid foundation that will serve them well in their lives outside the area.

Frank said he wasn't a model student in high school, but the values instilled in him here contributed to the success he found later in life.

The students had put together a bench with the class of 2013 in large letters and messages from each graduate. The gift will be placed on the grounds at the school as a lasting memory of the class.

The bench wasn't the only gift given out that night. The students also presented flowers and other items to retiring faculty members Karen Cleveland, Marilyn Erdman and Karlene Hatleli. They also recalled some of the special traits each teacher had.

The student address this year was given by the four senior class officers - Jessica Kaster, Elizabeth Tart, Kaitlin Apenhorst and Kaylee Beevers. They took students back to some of the fun times they had together through their school years together.

Doug Bergey gave the faculty address and the music selection was by Jordynn Tart, Sara Hill, Justin Kraling and Tyler Messner.

Graduating with honors and distinction were Gabriel Drees, Sara Hill, Jessica Kaster, Sara O'Connell, Elizabeth Tart and Jordynn Tart. Graduating with honors were Caleb Frank, Marly Gehrking, Hannah Hansen, Mikaylah Hellickson, Jordan Kohn, Cheyenne Losey, Joclyn Pierce and Laney Schwinefus.

It was also noted that more than $72,800 in scholarship money was awarded to Kingsland students at the Arts and Academics Awards program on May 21.