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News from the week of May 22, 2002

Outdoor graduation plan has many hoping for sun

Commencement planned on football field Sunday

Tracy Area High School's first outdoor graduation ceremony in five decades is scheduled to unfold Sunday afternoon.

Weather permitting, the Class of 2002 will walk onto the high school football field amid the music of “Pomp and Circumstance” beginning at 2 p.m. The THS Class of 1954 is likely the only class in school history to receive their diplomas outdoors. The May, 1954 graduation ceremony was conducted at the Central Park Bandshell.

In case of inclement or threatening weather conditions—high winds, rain or cold—the commencement ceremony will be moved indoors to the high school gymnasium. A final decision on whether to hold the ceremony outdoors or inside is scheduled to be made at 7 a.m. Sunday, with an announcement broadcast shortly thereafter on KARL-FM 105.1 and KJOE-FM 106.1.

“We will err on the side of extreme caution,” said Supt. of Schools Rick Clark, about the decision.

Students on football field

Plans are for the seniors to march into the track/football complex from the north side of the grandstand. The class will sit on chairs near the 50-yard line, between the sideline and the hashmarks. A small platform will be erected for speakers and the presentation of diplomas. The high school band will be seated behind and to one side of graduates. The choir will sing from risers closer to the grandstand.

Seniors are remembering eight-year-old classmate

Nine years and three and a half months ago, the Class of 2002 lost a classmate. But Wayne Johnson won't be forgotten Sunday as his classmates receive their diplomas.

A chair is being set aside for Wayne at the Sunday's commencement ceremony, in memory of the eight-year-old classmate who died suddenly on February 12, 1993. A graduation cap and tassel, along with a framed picture of Wayne, will be placed on the chair. Three white roses, festooned with ribbons in the class colors, will mark Wayne Johnson's spot amongst the graduates.

An energetic and athletic youngster who delighted in making friends laugh by making funny faces, Wayne died unexpectedly and inexplicable from a rare attack of bacterial meningitis. Many of his third grade classmates attended the funeral.

Megan Schons, co-president of the senior class, said that students still remember Wayne. "People still talk about him. A lot of people have memories about him in the elementary school.

Andrea Gervais greets classmates from Belgium

Tracy Area High School senior Andrea Gervais won't be donning a cap and gown with the rest of her classmates Sunday.

Andrea, the daughter of Tom and Joan Gervais of Currie, spent her senior year as an AFS student in Belgium, and will be returning to Tracy in July. She is staying in Roeselare, Belgium, a city of about 55,000 people, with the Dirk and Martine Vuylsteke family.

Gervais plans to attend college at Johnson and Wales University in Charleston, S.C. this fall and study culinary arts. She hopes to someday open her own restaurant.

Gervais has enjoyed her experience immensely, and encourages her classmates to see some of the world if they can.

“It truly makes you appreciate your own life, as well as bring depth and understanding of world situations,” she wrote in an e-mail to the Headlight-Herald this week.

She hopes to see some of her classmates when she is home for a few weeks this summer.

“I just want to say good luck to my classmates, and wish each of you much success in your future endeavors. God bless each of you!”

Hopes sink for on-time aquatic center opening

When will the new Tracy Family Aquatic Center open?

No one knows. But it is certain that the new swim facility will not open on June 1, as originally hoped.

“No one wants to give us a date when (the aquatic center) is going to be finished,” said Pool Administrator Shorty Engel Monday afternoon. However, he indicated, that it's obvious the pool isn't gong to be operational by June 1.

The first of three swimming lesson-sessions were scheduled to begin June 10. On Monday it was decided to cancel the June 10-21 swimming lesson session. Engel said that an announcement will be made next week about a new opening-day target for the pool. People who signed up for the first-swimming lesson session will be notified individually of the cancellation, Engel said.

The aquatic center was to have been completed by Monday, May 20, according to construction contracts signed last year. The pool closed a month early last summer to give contractors a jump-start on the project. Progress is visible almost every day at the aquatic center construction site in Sebastian Park.

The finishing plaster coating for two of the aquatic center's three pools—the plunge and multi-use pools—was completed recently. Work continues to pour the cement decking around the main pool area.

The aquatic center's paving contractor—Central Specialties, Inc. of Alexandria—began grading and excavation work for the pool's parking lot and circular drive last week. Curb and gutter is installed around the drive and parking area. Paving is expected to follow soon. The aquatic center's concession building and bathhouse are complete. Work yet to be done includes installation of fencing and all pool equipment and slides. After completion, staff will need to be trained before the facility can open.

Registration sessions for swimming lessons and season passes enjoyed a good turnout Friday and Saturday, Engel said.

Special Olympics spirit warms hearts in Tracy

Special Olympics athletes put forth winning efforts Saturday in Tracy.

“They tried so hard, no matter what their ability,” said Leroy Johnson, who co-chaired the Area 8 Special Olympics Track and Field meet for the Tracy Lions. “It brought tears to my eyes. If our professional athletes put forth that much effort, think of what kind of teams they would be able to make.”

Ninety-three Special Olympics athletes from 13 area schools participated in the event, held at the Tracy Area High School track complex. Competition was offered in field events (long jump, softball throw, shot put) and running and relay events.

The Tracy Lions staged the event with the help of other area Lions clubs and local volunteers.

“We had tremendous support,” said Johnson. Darrell Christian was the other co-chairman.

Tracy Special Olympics athletes performed several honorary roles. Alicia LaVoie, David DeSmith, Cody Minett, and Hope Reese formed a relay team that carried the Special Olympics torch around the track. Hope, the last runner, handed off the torch to Emily Coulter, who lit the Special Olympics torch in the middle of the football field.

Lisa LaVoie recited the Special Olympics pledge: “Let me win. But if I can not win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

A Tracy American Legion color guard was present for a parade of athletes, the singing of the National Anthem, and the Pledge of Allegiance. Pastor Steve Olson gave the invocation. Dr. Rick Clark, Tracy Supt. of Schools, Terri Hughes, Lions District Governor; Al Sobrack, President Tracy Lions Club; and Shane Kiesner, Minnesota Special Olympics; welcomed the crowd.

Schools and organizations represented at the Special Olympics were: Cottonwood County Day Activity Center, Edgerton Public Schools, Jackson County Central, Luverne, Marshall, Murray County Central, Pipestone-Jasper, Red Rock Central, Tracy, Wabasso, Windom Home for Creative Living, Worthington.

Ambulance volunteers stress teamwork

May 19-25 is EMT week

By Val Scherbart Quist

For Tracy Ambulance Service volunteers, there's definitely no room for an “I” in “team.”

From the EMTs to the police, fire department, hospital, and other departments, teamwork is what makes Tracy Ambulance Service tick.

“When we come through the door, we come through as a team,” says Tracy Ambulance Service President Charlie DeSchepper.

The mock accident docudrama put on this spring at the high school demonstrates how that teamwork works, he added. From the dispatcher to the different agencies who participate, each plays an important role.

National EMS Week, May 19-25, celebrates this teamwork and the valuable services provided by EMTs everyday. This year's theme is “Help is a Heartbeat Away.”

Service began 30 years ago

Tracy Ambulance Service was started in 1972. Volunteers sold shares in order to buy their first ambulance.

As the only non-profit, volunteer, privately owned ambulance service in the state, Tracy Ambulance Service's only sources of funds are from calls and fund-raisers.

“One of the biggest misconceptions people have is that because it says `Tracy Ambulance Service,' it's owned by the city. It's not,” said DeSchepper.

“We couldn't do it without the support of the community,” added ambulance member Charlie Snyder. “The community is what drives us.”