Fond Farewell

“At the beginning of the school year, I challenged all of you to lead by your best effort, to take just one step forward each day,” Yosemite High School Principal Randy Seals told the student body, “... well the 2016 class has far exceeded those expectations.”

At last Friday’s final rally of the school year, students erupted in roaring cheers and stomping feet.

“Without a doubt, YHS has the most outstanding students anywhere ... and this year’s Student of the Year is Rose Curley,” Seals said.

Curley not only served as the Associated Student Body president, but was the student representative on the school board, and with a GPA of 4.85, was one of 18 valedictorians. As Student of the Year, she received a $500 Target gift card, donated by Oakhurst Sierra Sunrise Rotary.

There were plenty of cheers for a long stream of award winners. Those hearty hurrahs were intermingled with bittersweet tears for an era coming to an end, when Ellen Peterson, after 40 years, heads into retirement.

“As a representative of Brigham Young University, beginning this year, we are honoring an outstanding teacher within the community,” said former Badger Edie Hickey. “These are teachers who understand, who inspire, teachers you’re grateful to have known. While I never had her as a teacher, she was my coach ... she was the smiliest person ever, and the most enthusiastic and optimist person I’ve ever met.”

The young crowd knew what name was coming next.

“So for her excellence in teaching, I’d like to present this Crystal Apple award to Ellen Peterson.”

The noise level in the gym exploded with applause, whistles, and scattered yells of “We love you, Mrs. P.”

Wiping her eyes, Mrs. P. humbly accepted her award, and then returned to her seat, but not so fast.

Curley announced Peterson as Teacher of the Year, an award decided on by the students. More tears and hugs followed.

The students also voted Band as Club of the Year, and receptionist Kellie McConnell as Staff Member of the Year.

Seals then turned his attention to two staff members, who have worked a combined 70 years serving YHS students faithfully. He asked the student body to show their appreciation as he called out the name of librarian Janell Balaguy, who had worked there 30 years. The audience was enthusiastic in their gratitude.

Once the cheering and clapping died down, Seals continued, “I’ve agonized how I was going to handle this moment. YHS has been in existence 40 years, and has become known as a premier high school ... the one common thread is Mrs. P.”

As though on queue, the crowd collectively jumped to their feet. Several students ran down from the bleachers, circling her for a spontaneous group hug, as the chanting grew louder and louder. “MP, MP, MP ....”

When all was said and done, perhaps it was Curley who best summed up what many were thinking.

Standing at the podium, looking out at her peers, gazing at a sea of familiar faces in a place she has invested four years of her young life, she realized it would be the last time this crowd would ever come together again.

With arms outstretched, she simply said, “I will miss you all dearly.”