EFHS Graduation

Jesse Miklasz examines his diploma following his walk across the stage at the East Fairmont High School gym. Miklasz is one of 176 members of the Class of 2006.

Samantha Huffman, a graduating senior at East Fairmont High School, is one of those students who had an instructor that changed her life.

Because of the influence of and her admiration for her French teacher, Inez Hill, Huffman plans to major in education with a specialization in French at Fairmont State University.

And before she begins teaching in this area, she wants to serve in the Peace Corps for two years in Cote d’Ivoire (the Ivory Coast), a French-speaking African nation.

“During my first year here, I had Mrs. Hill. I fell in love with the language and the teacher.” Huffman said Friday as she prepared to graduate with 175 fellow seniors.

Wearing colored, roped chords around her neck — the red was for the French honorary — and an old gold cap and gown, Huffman did just that in the East Fairmont High School gymnasium.

Graduating seniors marched to Pomp and Circumstances played by the Busy Bee Band and a standing ovation from their friends and family.

“I’m excited — and scared I’ll fall off the stage,” Huffman said before the processional began.

Principal Tom Dragich presented the class members for their diplomas and he had a special message for them, as the Class of 2006 will be the last over which he presides. He will retire June 30 after 36 years in education, 15 of them at East Fairmont.

“I’m proud to present my class, the Class of 2006,” he said.

The students had a message for him as well. When he arrived at school Friday morning, the East Fairmont in the title of the high school had been replaced with a banner so that the school’s name was Tom Dragich High School during the ceremony.

“I was touched,” Dragich had said earlier in the evening. “I think the kids meant well by it.”

In his remarks to the class, he also noted that the girls’ softball team came in second place in the state tournament.

“And more importantly to me, they brought back the sportsmanship trophy for the state championship,” he noted. “That’s something very special.”

Graduating senior Brooke Starcher gave the welcoming address, and told the students that, “We’re here to celebrate not an ending, but a new beginning.”

For Gaynon Bunner, a new beginning will mean wrestling for West Virginia University, maybe majoring in multi-media design, and eventually going to law school. But before the ceremony, he reflected back on his time at East Fairmont and wrestling for the Bees.

“It’s a huge adrenaline rush,” he said. “I was in the state finals. I lost, but it was still the best experience of my life.”

E-mail Mary Wade Burnside at mwburnside@timeswv.com.

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