Kingsland High School Principal James Hecimovich holds up the 2001 yearbook from Kingsland Elementary School when the graduates were starting school and he was starting as principal at Kingsland. DAVID PHILLIPS/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
Kingsland High School Principal James Hecimovich holds up the 2001 yearbook from Kingsland Elementary School when the graduates were starting school and he was starting as principal at Kingsland. DAVID PHILLIPS/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
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Kingsland High School Principal James Hecimovich had a hard time letting go of the class of 2014 during commencement Friday night.

Hecimovich started at Kingsland as elementary school principal in 2001 when the 2014 graduates were also starting their years at Kingsland as kindergarteners. As he spoke during commencement, he held up a copy of the 2001 yearbook, saying he had a good time looking at those young faces today, recalling the road they traveled to get to this place.

"Wow, what an adventure," he said.

The connection was mentioned several times during commencement, first by Superintendent John McDonald, who gave the welcome, and then by the senior class officers who gave the student address.

"You hold a very special place in all our hearts, not only as a principal, but also as a friend," said Brianna Musel.

She was one of six class officers - Rialie Fenske, Paige Webb, Taylor Link, Hannah Ramaker and Melinda Woods are the others - who ran through memories, thanked those who helped them along the way and looked ahead to their time apart.

Their memories won't be forgotten, though. Jaimie Thompson and Hannah Corson locked up a time capsule to be opened 25 years from now.

Commencement also had music by graduates Corrin Lee and Jordan Pokorney, singing "For Good," along with music by the high school band and the presentation of colors by VFW Post 4114 color guard.

Faculty speaker C.J. Boerger let the graduates in on a little secret - that he was the person inside that Knight costume that roamed the fields and floors during school events. He reminded the students that "when you are a knight, you are a knight for life." He said the knight training offered at Kingsland should prepare them for the challenges they face as they go off on their quest.

Keynote speaker Lisa Vehrenkamp outlined her life since she graduated from Spring Valley High School in 1987. She went to Michigan State University, a campus of 40,000 students, which is about 16 times the size of Spring Valley, and then to New York City in a neighborhood that is multiple times as large as her campus.

Still, she felt at home in New York, and advised the students to "find your people." No matter where you go, people may try to label you, she said, but you need to stay true to yourself.

"Be who you are and be it often," she said.

She also advised the students to follow their passion and avoid energy vampires, who can suck the air out of a room by their presence.

With modern technology, particularly the Internet, there are many opportunities to do what you want where you want, she told the graduates.

McDonald, in his welcome in which he shared five points with the graduates, noted that graduation may seem like an end, but there is always a beginning to an end. Graduation makes the end of a path, but there is a new path to begin, he explained.

"In real life, every day is graduation day," he said.

Hecimovich almost didn't let the graduates begin that new path. At the end of commencement, he commented that he was still having a hard time letting them go out the door for the last time. After, a couple of hesitations, he finally excused the class of 2014 to begin their new journey as Kingsland High School alumni.