High School is closer to the core of the American experience than anything else I can think of.

~ Kurt Vonnegut

Though skies threatened outside Sunday, the mood inside the gym was celebratory as the St. James High School class of 2014 conducted their graduation ceremony.

Graduating senior Simon Beck likened life, and high school, to sports, analogizing elementary school and middle school to practice and pregame, and calling high school the first quarter. In sports, success is winning--outscoring the opponent.

“But, in life, success is not so black and white,” he said. “What is success? To me, success is happiness.”

“Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life,” he continued. He said that can be accomplished in a variety of ways, from “fixing cars” to “counting files.”

Prior to commencement, graduate Anna Haler may have summed up the feelings of her classmates when she called the day “bittersweet” in a tweet.

“Thanks for the amazing memories,” she wrote. “I couldn’t pick a better group of people to graduate with.”

Apparently, the most poignant moment of the ceremony was when the concert choir performed “Like an Eagle.” Looking around the gym, there were a lot of moist eyes when that song finished.

Levity and cheer were provided with a slideshow, which juxtaposed photos of the graduates as babies or young children with their present look and age. The audience responded frequently with laughter and/or cheers. The slideshow opened with the famed lip dub video of students dancing to Taio Cruz’s song “Dynamite” as they show off the school’s diversity.

The commencement began with the popular processional “Pomp and Circumstance,” and the concert band later performed “Carry On Wayward Son.” For both the concert band and the concert choir performances, multiple graduates had to leave their seats among their fellow graduates to participate in the band/choir, and then return after finishing.

The class song was “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by “Simple Minds.” The song is most famous as the anthem in the popular John Hughes film “The Breakfast Club,” which was set in a high school in the Chicago suburbs. The class flower was the carnation, and the class colors were red, black, and silver.

During the commencement, 74 diplomas were handed out to graduates. The ceremony concluded with the tassels being symbolically moved, and hats being tossed into the air.

Finally, the graduates proceeded outside from the gym--and into their futures.

“Graduation is such an exciting event each year. The district's mission statement of high expectations and real results is exemplified at graduation,” said Superintendent Becky Cselovszki. “Our graduates are leaders, active community members, and great people. We wish them all the very best!”

Ryan Anderson can be reached at randerson@stjamesnews and followed on Twitter @randerson_ryan

The full story, and a photo of the class, appears in today's print edition of the St. James Plaindealer.