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Trinity graduation ends a trying year on a positive note

Press Photo by Nadya Faulx Trinity High School’s class of 2014 celebrate inside Knights of Columbus Activities Center after graduation Sunday. The ceremony, held in the school’s auditorium, was a homecoming of sorts after a trying few months following a devastating fire. 1 / 3
Trinity High School seniors file into the school auditorium Sunday for their graduation ceremony. The class was the 50th to walk across Trinity’s stage.2 / 3
Graduating senior Gretchen Weir, left, holds hands with her classmate, Katelyn Grinsteinner, as they prepare to head to the Trinity High School auditorium Sunday. Faint reminders of the fire that damaged the school three months ago remain, but class president Austin Deichert said Trinity “feels like home still.”3 / 3

A faint smell of smoke still hangs in the air at Trinity High School.

Some flooring is missing from the auditorium lobby, revealing a gaping black patch just in front of the glossy white gym. A sign on the outer doors declares a “prohibited area.”

Those are just a few lingering reminders of the devastating fire that broke out there just three months ago.

That was all overshadowed Sunday by the excitement surrounding the graduation ceremony for Trinity’s graduating class of 2014.

“It’s a great ending to a difficult three months,” said Steve Glasser, president of Dickinson Catholic Schools, as students lined up to enter the auditorium.

“I don’t know if words can describe it,” he said. “It’s an exciting and emotional day.”

The ceremony was the first event held at Trinity since the fire forced students and faculty to finish out the year in the St. Joseph’s Catholic Church basement and throughout Dickinson Public School facilities. It’s also one the seniors themselves weren’t sure would happen.

“It’s kind of crazy,” said senior Alexandria Hellman, taking a break from snapping photos with her friends. “When this all started, we didn’t know if we’d be back. I had no idea how bad or extensive the damage was going to be.”

This year’s 39 graduating seniors were the 50th class to walk across the Trinity auditorium stage. The ceremony and Rose Mass, led by Rev. Kregg Hocchalter, were traditions the school was determined to uphold.

“Every class has walked across that stage,” said class president Austin Deichert, an honor student headed to the University of Mary to study exercise science this fall. “No one wants to be the first class to break tradition.”

He said despite the smokey smell, Trinity “feels like home still.”

The weeks following the fire were filled with uncertainty over whether the ceremony could happen in the auditorium as planned, or if it would have to be held somewhere else. Glasser said he remembers meeting with seniors just a couple of weeks after the fire and telling them the school was doing all it could to ensure graduation could take place at the school many of them have called home since the seventh grade.

It wasn’t until mid-April that Glasser was able to tell students, “this is going to happen. Graduation will be in the auditorium.”

“There was an outpouring of applause and shouting,” he said. “I can’t imagine how difficult and unsettling it was not knowing where they’re going to graduate.”

It wasn’t an easy feat preparing the school for Sunday’s event. Walls had to be painted, flowers potted and new fire alarms installed. Chairs in the auditorium were removed, cleaned and reinstalled in the fire cleanup.

Teachers pitched in, as did students. The entire Trinity community rallied around “making sure today was a reality,” Glasser said. “It was an incredible showing of solidarity and teamwork.”

Senior Molly Schweitzer said a few days before graduation that she appreciates “how hard everyone has worked to get the school ready for graduation.”

“I can’t wait to see the Titan family gathered together again,” she said.

Clad in the school colors of red and white, and surrounded by family, friends, clergy and faculty, the class of 2014 used some of its last moments at Trinity to end a trying year on a positive note.

“The students haven’t missed a beat,” senior adviser Janel Schiff said. “It’s a tribute to them that they were able to stay focused despite some of the ways they had to adapt to new environments, a new situation.”

Speakers at the ceremony made few mentions of the fire that colored the students’ final semester. They chose instead to focus on football games, broken bleachers and inside jokes from the students’ several years together -- “memories that makes us proud to be Titans,” Kelli Pavlicek said in her student address.

Deichert said he his own memories of Trinity and will always include the fire among them. But, he said, on graduation day, “instead of kids tearing up, it’s good to see everyone smile.”

As students look ahead to their next steps and head to schools across the country, the school is looking forward as well.

Trinity plans to re-open its doors for junior high and high school students once again this fall.