A high school graduation is about moving on; students are about to separate from people they've known all their lives and may never see again, but for Parkersburg High School, this ceremony will be a remembrance in more ways than one.
In February, the senior class lost two members in less than seven days, Joshua Sams and Adam Arthur, due to car crashes. Their seats at the ceremony will be left empty.
"The senior class is purchasing flowers to put on their empty seats," says Ralph Board, for whom this will be his first commencement as PHS principal. "We are calling their names. Adam's sister is coming across the stage, and will accept his diploma."
While no remembrance is planned for two soldiers recently lost from the Iraq war, both are recent graduates of the high school as well.
Principal Board says another remembrance will be for the Reverend Harley Bailey. The Wood County Board of Education member, who died last month, attended most of the PHS graduations for the past three decades.
"We're leaving a chair empty that had been filled by Reverend Bailey. We will have a moment of silence at the beginning of graduation," says Board.
Not only is principal Board presiding over his first commencement, one of the students to whom he'll be presenting a diploma is his daughter, who is graduating.