Originally Posted Online: May 17, 2010, 3:43 pm
Last Updated: May 18, 2010, 10:21 am

Riverdale valedictorian urges classmates to set goals

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Seth Kabala, seth@sethkabala.com

Photo: Seth Kabala / correspondent
Cassandra Barber, left, Jade Blick and Kiley Preston pose before Riverdale High School's graduation ceremony.
Photo: Seth Kabala / correspondent
Cody Graham, left, Beau Black, Danny Sothmann, Dustin Flesch, and Kevin Miller are ready to graduate.
Photo: Seth Kabala / correspondent
Here are Riverdale High School Class of 2010 graduates Jenna Hohenboken, left, and Claire Vandercar.

The 88 members of Riverdale High School's 2010 graduating class gathered Sunday to celebrate the last chapter of their lives at the school and the first chapter of their lives as adults.

After thanking his mother for "six years of homeschooling and 18 years of life lessons," salutatorian Logan Eliason kept the capacity crowd in stitches with his observations of high school life.

"There are few things better in this life than good, clean fun," Mr. Eliason said while donning Harry Potter-type glass, and describing having to reshoot school pictures because certain seniors wore "inappropriate attire."

Describing his "very nervous" first day in driver's ed classes, he said "it's illegal to drive on the left side of the road," then noted that "right is always right. In our lives, you can never go wrong with doing what's right."

Valedictorian Emma Thompson told the class that now it's time for the next step. "There's always more to achieve" no matter what you do, she said. "I urge you to keep setting goals for yourself."

Whatever career path you choose, statistics, grades and goals always will be there as yardsticks of performance, much the same as in high school, Ms. Thompson said, reminding graduates to use these numbers to their advantage and be aware of their progress in light of them. "I look forward to seeing you take your own path."

Guest speaker was J. Charles Plumb, a former Vietnam War pilot who spent more than 2,000 days as a prisoner of war after being shot down over Hanoi, and now is a nationally known motivational speaker.

Mr. Plumb said that many years later, he met the man who packed his parachute in Vietnam, and thanked him for packing the chute to ensure a safe landing. He told students that the ones who prepared them for life are like the parachute packers.

He used the three-pace distance between the lectern and American flag to describe the size of his POW cell, and said he communicated with another POW by tapping and tugging in secret code on a wire fed between their cells.

He said the POW motto was "Keep the faith, baby."

After being released from the POW camp, Mr. Plumb said he met a reporter who described his own difficulties and told him, "You've given me hope.'"

Mr. Plumb said that was the first time he realized that there was value even in being in a prison cell. "When you start blaming other people for your problems, you give away control of your life," he said. "Don't let people write the script for you."

There's value in every experience, he said. Tug wires, take risks, "and you can do anything you set your mind to."

Members of the Class of 2010

Timothy Alguire, Alexa Allen, Cassandra Barber, Beau Black, Jade Blick, Kassandra Brooks, Jessica Bump, Russell Burt II, Erik Cewe, Jasmine Chavez, Zachery Christensen, Amanda Coder, Jessica Daw, Lance DeShane, Dallas Devinney, Micki DeWitt, Daniel Dillin, Brittney Duett, Steven Duggan, Logan Eliasen, Dustin Flesch, Derek Foster, Joshua Gabel, Emily Gaudet, Ashley Goeller, Gregory Goetz, Bretta Golden, Cody Graham, Talor Gray, Ali Green, Ryan Gruetzmacher, Michael Hawkes, Jenna Hohenboken, Taylor Hurry, Kalyn Hutchcraft, Lauren Johnson, Richard Johnson, Sara Jones, Jessica Karstens, Kaila-Ann Krebs, Shawn Kunzmann, Kyle Kupresin, Alissa LeCompte, Sara Marzorati, Michael Maxwell, Nelson McKay, Carolyn McLeod, Jennifer McManigal, Kevin Miller, Chelsea Neely, Kelsey Oney, Alexander Paxton, Jennifer Paxton, James Plavak, Samantha Pollock, Kiley Preston, Nicholas Pursley, Tyler Richards, Ricky Riley Jr., Steven Schultze, Kelsey Sheley, Adam Short, Kayla Shouse, Lowden Shrum, Tyler Smeltzly, Daniel Sothmann, Courtney Sprague, Randi Stahl, Chelsie Stickler, Alicia Stropes, Corey Tacker, Jenna Tanner, Julia Taskovics, Emma Thompson, Emily Tysma, Claire Vandercar, Jessica Vermeire, Kayla Viscioni, Danise Vroman, Matthew White, Katherine Williams, Kimberly Winchester, Alex Wirt, Gabrielle Wojcik, Corey Wolfe, Megan Zimmer and Aaron Zitnik.