For students, family, teachers, a milestone night for remembrances at SM North graduation

SM North's award winning ROTC crew led the processional onto the field for graduation Wednesday.
SM North’s award winning ROTC crew led the processional onto the field for graduation Wednesday.

Graduation night presents a host of experiences for everyone involved: excited graduates, elated parents, proud teachers. Here are a few of the faces and stories from SM North’s graduation ceremony Wednesday.

Enrique Franco

Enrique Franco (left) adjusted his cap as he walked into the SM North auditorium for the start of graduation ceremonies Wednesday.
Enrique Franco (left) adjusted his cap as he walked into the SM North auditorium for the start of graduation ceremonies Wednesday.

Enrique Franco was all smiles on his last trip through the SM North halls Friday. After three years at the school, having transferred after a year at Overland Christian, Franco was enjoying one last night with his high school classmates. “Meeting new people, being really social, that was the best part of it,” he said. “We’re all close, we’re all friends, you know?” Franco’s set to start attending classes at Johnson County Community College next year, where he’ll focus on engineering. Eventually, he wants to work in the biological engineering or agriculture fields. As for graduating, he was ready to “make momma proud,” with his parents, aunts and uncles in the stands watching.

Ben Bartlett

Drama instructor and football coach Ben Bartlett has seen SM North graduation as both a student and a teacher.
Drama instructor and football coach Ben Bartlett has seen SM North graduation as both a student and a teacher.

SM North teacher Ben Bartlett knows exactly what it feels like to walk across the stage on the Indians football field on graduation night. He did it himself in 1998. “I’ve definitely seen my share of them,” he said. “As a student, watching my brothers and sisters — I’m one of ten siblings – and now as a teacher, I’ve been teaching here nine years,” he said. The evening always servers as a fitting end to the school year, he says. “Getting to play a part, even in a small way, in their accomplishments, it’s always a lot of fun,” he said.

Phyllis Bailey and Regina Porter

Regina Porter, in red, and Phyllis Bailey, in jean jacket, wave to their granddaughter Dariece Bailey.
Regina Porter, in red, and Phyllis Bailey, in jean jacket, wave to their granddaughter Dariece Bailey.

The amount of pride emitting from graduate Dariece Bailey’s grandmothers as they walked into the stadium was palpable. They waved emphatically as they saw the students lining up in the SM North Rose Garden.

Phyllis Bailey had traveled down with other extended family members from Waterloo, Iowa, for the event. “We feel great — she made it!” Bailey said, still waving at her granddaughter a hundred yards away.

“We started this 18 years ago, and we’re watching our baby walk the stage,” said Dariece’s other grandmother, Regina Porter, who moved from Waterloo to the Kansas City area several years ago.

“It’s happening tonight!”

Jerusalem Alemayhu

Jerusalem Alemayhu (center) was excited to watch her sister walk the SM North stage three years after she did the same.
Jerusalem Alemayhu (center) was excited to watch her sister walk the SM North stage three years after she did the same.

Jerusalem Alemayhu’s family moved to the United States from Addis Abbaba Ethiopia when she was 8. She graduated from SM North in 2012, a high school career she looks back on with great fondness. She was a cheerleader, and the experience of sitting in the football stadium stands brought back great memories. “I haven’t been here for a while, it’s took me back, going to the games,” she said. As she prepared to watch her sister Tigest graduate Wednesday, she knew these high school years would always provide fond memories. “The football field and all the friends you talked with in the hallway. That’s what they’re going to be thinking about in a few years. Those flashbacks. It doesn’t take more than a few years for you to remember high school was just an amazing part of your life,” she said. “I’m so, so happy — so proud of her.”