A momentous milestone

Graduates celebrate end to four years of study
By: Loryll Nicolaisen Journal Staff Writer
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Placer High has a couple hundred new alumni. With pomp, circumstance and plenty of personality, Placer High School’s 109th graduating class celebrated its commencement in LeFebvre Stadium Saturday morning. “This is not the end of our adventure. This is the beginning,” Jake Carlisle, senior class president, told his fellow graduates. Dave Horsey, Placer Union High School District assistant superintendent of educational services and former Placer High principal, presided over commencement, and said he was humbled by an open invitation to do so in the Hillmen Messenger student paper. “I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be than here amongst these awesome students,” he said. Horsey praised Placer High’s class of 2008, noting that the senior class collectively received more than $650,000 in scholarships. He also stressed the connection between parent and teacher support and student success, and offered the graduates bits of advice. “It’s been my distinct honor to be your principal three of the last four years, and I wish you the very, very best,” he said. Matt Freie, student body president, said he had some high hopes for his fellow graduates. “Go out there and do something remarkable,” he said. “I’m expecting great things out of all of you, so don’t let me down.” Senior Jennifer Bandanza brought her guitar to graduation, performing “Moving On,” a song she wrote. “I’ve learned that you can’t give up, just try and keep it up,” she sang. “You’ll be the one you want to, maybe that’s the real you.” Placer’s 10 valedictorians split speaking duties, talking through each of the class’s four years of high school and the importance of sports, homecoming, the arts, friends, teachers and family. “We owe you everything,” Meredith Evancie said, concluding the group speech. “We love you and we thank you.” Teachers shared the duty of reading students’ names while families and friends cheered, blasted air horns and set off party poppers that whipped confetti into the air. A cool breeze blowing through the stadium made it a challenge for graduates to keep their caps and tassels in place. While waiting their turn to walk across the field and obtain their diplomas, seniors waved at parents, flashed peace signs, and blew kisses. Some seniors opted to make that walk across the field their own — David Farrior attempted a cartwheel, Courtney Moody strutted sans shoes, Kiah Robison kicked off her heels mid-field, and Timothy Suemnicht waited, after his name was announced, for Nick Sykora’s name to be announced before giving him a high five. Once everyone had their diplomas, seniors Brandon Casbeer and Julia Zimmerman belted out Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop” while their fellow graduates left their seats and formed a semi-circle on the field, finishing the ceremony by singing the Alma Mater. Rory Jarvis used this time to run from one end of the arch to the other, encouraging his fellow graduates to do the wave. “It was fun, exhilarating,” he admitted. How did Jarvis feel about graduating? “It’s mind-blowing,” he said as the audience emptied out of the stands onto the field to congratulate their graduates. Valedictorians Meredith Evancie and Emily Dowlearn swapped hugs with their classmates. “It’s been coming for a long time, but it’s great,” Evancie said of graduating. Dowlearn was beaming with an ear-to-ear smile. “This is overwhelming, exciting, amazing — every cool adjective you could think of,” he said. Brandon Roskelley’s family found him on the field after the ceremony’s conclusion. Mom Colleen Roskelley said Brandon graduating was a special landmark for the family. “He’s our youngest,” she said. “I graduated from Placer. My mom graduated from Placer. My dad graduated from Placer. It’s a family tradition.” After the initial round of hugs and congratulations, Thea Hardy posed for photos with family members. “It feels awesome,” she said of graduating. “I’m excited.” Big sister Camille Hardy, a 2006 Placer graduate, was quite proud of Thea. “There’s no words to explain it,” she said. “We’ve always been best friends, so it’s hard for me to watch her grow up.” Mom Chris Autrey was also proud of her daughter. “Oh my gosh, it’s beautiful,” she said. “I’ve wanted to watch them grow up and be happy all my life.” The Journal’s Loryll Nicolaisen can be reached at, or comment online at