Bessemer graduation raises mixed emotions

 

May 25, 2019

P.J. Glisson/Daily Globe

GRADUATING SENIOR Kathryn Elaine Nyquist sheds tears with her mom, Sherri Nyquist, directly after Friday night's graduation ceremony in the A.D. Johnston Junior and Senior High School in Bessemer. Sherri Nyquist is a third grade teacher at Washington Elementary School.

BESSEMER - Friday evening was bittersweet as graduates of A.D. Johnston Junior and Senior High School celebrated both big wins and heavy losses in a week steeped in emotion.

Co-valedictorians Devon Elias Byers and Andrew Isaac Aspinwall both received perfect 4.0 grade point averages and served on the student council, respectively, as president and treasurer. They both also addressed the crowd.

"Finally, we won't have to worry about keeping our grades up," said Aspinwall, drawing laughs when he added that the pressure also was off to seem at least "somewhat enthused."

Still, he added, "This year has been so hard for us, losing two beloved classmates."

Lauren Marie Powless, 18, who was scheduled to graduate, died on May 18 in a local car accident, and Nolan Joshua Hannu, who was part of the graduating class in its sophomore year, died of a heart condition on March 15.

Madeline Rose Jackson, 15, who had been a sophomore at ADJ, also died in the same accident with Powless. Her brother, David Jackson, received roaring cheers when he accepted his diploma and walked the stage.

Flowers were on display in memory of all three students.

Despite the recent sadness with which students have struggled, there was a lot of joy during Friday evening's event.

Principal Dan Niemi described the group as "the most special class" that he's ever had the honor to assist in graduating.

Niemi, who is just completing his first year in the job, said they were "the kindest group of individuals I've ever met." He added, "Never have I seen such a tight-knit group."

Awarding diplomas were board president Robert Berg, along with superintendent Dave Wineburner and ADJ advisor and secretary Kathy Johnson.

The high school choir, directed by music teacher Sandra Genisot, sang "Just Believe," and band director Dan Pitrone led the band in several numbers.

At the end of the evening, students tossed their hats in the air.


 
 

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