A month or so ago, they were bright, shiny faces walking across a stage to get diplomas.
Now, the Class of 2009 is taking its first steps into adulthood.
For many, it means moving to other communities to further their education.
For others, it means classes or jobs closer to home.
For several weeks, reporters from this newspaper have been attempting to call new graduates to ask them to look forward to their new lives and back at the lives they just concluded as students at Centre, Goessel, Hillsboro, Marion, and Peabody-Burns high schools.
It was not until reporter Adam Stewart switched to querying them via Facebook, a leading social-networking Web site, that responses began pouring in — 35 of them in a single day.
While their responses varied, nearly all seemed full of hope for the future, passion for the past, and optimism for a world that increasingly seems caught up in economic gloom and doom.
A representative sampling of responses:
Kayla Nickelson, Marion High School
“I’m not very worried about the future,” Kayla said. She will study advertising and commercial art at Salina Technical College. “If I wasn’t going to college, I would be, but I do feel that I will have a good future ahead.”
Kayla chose advertising because it is a field in high demand — second only to health care, she said.
“Also I want to do photography on the side because I really enjoy it,” she said. “I am already taking senior pictures for people.”
What Kayla will miss most about high school are classes taught by art instructor Jim Versch.
“I was in art, photography, and yearbook throughout high school, and I also had a seminar class with him,” she said. “The things I learned from him will definitely help me in the future.”
Kayla thinks many of her classmates are worried about the future because of the economy, which she thinks will improve.
Hillsboro High School
Viktoria plans to work at her family’s business, at least for now.
“Right now my plans for the next three years are basically, buy my own house and work at ASAP AutoGlass,” she said. “After three years, I plan on reassessing my situation and may continue working for my parents if I feel it’s the best decision at that time.”
Someday she would like to own her own business.
“Eventually, I would like to own my own bar and grill, located somewhere near here, because I love the bar environment,” she said. “Everybody goes to the bar to have a good time, and I would like to give that to people.”
Active in numerous high school groups, Viktoria “will miss everything about high school.”
She wrote for the school paper, was on yearbook staff, sang in choir, was first-chair trumpet, was active in the Lions Club youth group LEOS, and was chapter president of Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America.
She recently joined the adult Hillsboro Noon Lions Club to continue her service.
“I will also miss the teachers,” she said. “While some of them I may not have gotten along with so well, others left a lasting impression on me that I will carry with me the rest of my life.”
The future doesn’t worry her.
“I try not to regret the things I do and take life one day at a time,” she said. “I know what I want to do with my life, and now it’s up to me to make that happen.
“If I don’t reach my goals, then most likely it will be my own fault, so why worry now? I have the rest of my life to worry.”
Centre High School
Cahn will be moving to Manhattan later this summer to major in park management and conservation at Kansas State University.
“I want to continue on going to school because I feel that it is better to stay in school so you can graduate and have jobs that are looking for you when you get out of college,” he said.
Cahn will miss “so much” about high school.
“For one I will miss the sports that were a big part of my high school career,” he said.
Like many other members of the Class of 2009, Cahn isn’t worried about his future.
“Of course not,” he said. “I think my future is going to be successful and can’t wait to be there.”
Peabody-Burns High School
Clarissa plans to attend college closer to home, at Butler Community College.
“I want to be an accountant because it’s something that I love to do,” she said. “I’m not really sure why. It’s just fun.”
She, too, will miss high school.
“What I will miss most about high school will probably be how easy it was, how laid back and relaxed it was,” she said. “Oh, and definitely the sports. Volleyball!”
She also is optimistic about the future.
“I know what I want and I’m going to strive to get it,” she said. “I’ve had a heck of a time, obstacles thrown at me right and left. So no matter what, I know I’m going to be OK because I have an amazing family, an amazing boyfriend, and amazing friends who will be there for me no matter what comes at us.”
Goessel High School
Also studying close to home, Kristin will enroll this fall at Bethel College in North Newton, where she plans to major in social work.
“I just want to help people in my life and work side-by-side with people in need,” Kristin said.
She is not worried about her future, but she will miss the closeness of high school.
“I will miss playing on sports teams and being so close-knit with everyone, since Goessel is such a small school,” she said.
Hillsboro High School
While many students will be working or studying near home, some — like Jessica — will be traveling a long distance to school.
She plans to enroll this fall in Nyack University in Nyack, N.Y., where she will major in cross-cultural studies with an emphasis on teaching English as a second language.
“My passion in life is working in different countries,” she explained. “I have done a ton of traveling through high school.”
Among her destinations were Honduras, Malawi, Cameroon and Mexico.
“To me there is just a thrill of being in different cultures and being a refuge to those in need,” she said. “I haven’t completely decided what I want to do in my ‘grown-up years,’ but for now I am dreaming of working in a Third World country or in immigration justice.”
She will miss “my friends, family, and the little town of Hillsboro.”
Vocal music teacher Lynn Just will be especially missed.
“Mrs. Just was a huge influence in my life through the numerous musicals, concerts, trips and much more,” Jessica said. “I know I will miss the many opportunities HHS offered to me other the years.
“So many people have asked me lately if I am worried or scared about going to a college 1,428 miles away, not knowing anyone. But the truth is, I’m not. I am ready to start this new chapter in my life and to grow from all the new experiences I will be a part of in the coming years.
“God has opened the doors for me, and I am excited to do His work.”
Marion High School
Joseph will take a very different path than many of his former classmates. He is getting in shape for boot camp, as he leaves July 20 to join the Marines.
Joseph has tentative plans: “I want to enter a career in computer programming.”
“Everything was easier in high school,” he said. “No worries.”
Hillsboro High School
Like Jessica, her HHS classmate, Abi will be traveling to a distant, big city for college — in Abi’s case, North Park University in downtown Chicago.
“Right now I’m majoring in global studies and hoping to focus on activism and missions,” she said.
She also will minor in Spanish.
“I’m not sure what I will do with all of that,” she said. “I’m passionate about helping bring about change in the lives of homeless children and teens. I want to do some sort of inner-city missions, although I’m not exactly sure what that will look like.”
What she will miss most about high school is “familiarity.”
“I’m going to a new place with all new people,” she said. “I’m not more than Facebook friends with anyone there yet. For someone who is outgoing and very verbal, it’s going to be strange and potentially awkward until I find my niche.”
Nonetheless, she’s optimistic about her future — and a bit sad about what she will be leaving behind.
“Everyone is telling me that I’ll make better friends in the first month of college than I ever had in high school,” she said, “and that my old friendships will fade into insignificance.
“That’s really scary. There are people here that I really don’t want to lose contact with and drift from.
“Other than that little tiny piece, I am completely pumped for college.”