As six graduates stood in gowns with smiles on their faces, surrounded by family and loved ones in the alley between Nothing Bundt Cakes and Kay Jewelers Saturday morning, pre-COVID-19 life returned — if only for a moment.
Nothing Bundt Cakes, 9740 76th St. #108, in Pleasant Prairie, held a graduation ceremony complete with music; names announced, speeches; a valedictorian; gifts; a party for the six employees, all of which were Indian Trail High School & Academy students; and instead of the traditional handshake, graduates were offered elbow bumps by Nothing Bundt Cakes General Manager Presley Racine.
Graduating Saturday were: Nathan Klimisch, Walker Dean, Angelo Pobocan, Wyatt Garlow, Madi Cowart and Taylor Wimberly.
“As we would be talking to our seniors and one thing after another kept getting canceled on them, as a parent, it was breaking my heart,” said owner Kim Racine of the impetus behind the event. “And I just kept thinking, ‘If I had a senior graduating this year, I would be so upset. What can I do to make something special for them?’”
After approaching the employees with the idea of doing something special for them at the business and the employees being on board, Racine and other members of the business went about crafting Saturday’s event.
Kim Racine welcomed the approximately 40 people that had gathered under the near clear blue skies and sunshine in the alleyway next to Nothing Bundt Cakes before Presley Racine gave the first speech of the day.
“First, I just want to start by saying that I hope you guys know how much I care about you, because I don’t wake up early for just anything,” Presley Racine said, tapping into the lighthearted, fun nature of the ceremony.
While briefly mentioning how COVID-19 had changed the landscape and robbed seniors across the nation from walking during graduation, Presley Racine told the graduates high school “isn’t easy, and all of your hard work deserves to be acknowledged.”
“High school is busy and stressful enough without jobs, but you guys managed to do it all while being such dedicated, reliable, hard workers here at Nothing Bundt Cakes,” Presley Racine said. “Not only did you juggle school and work, but all of you guys also participated in some form of club or activity.
“Wyatt and Madi were the president and vice president of GSA; Walker and Angelo were in band, pit and jazz band; Nathan was in volleyball and choir; and Taylor was the senior class vice president and in choir. And that’s just some of the things you all were involved in at Indian Trail.”
Walker, the “involuntary” valedictorian, as he stated his title was, gave a speech balanced with humor and sentiment, giving each of his co-workers a personal acknowledgment, before looking back on high school as a whole.
“I think the reason I haven’t really been phased by the fact that we are lacking a graduation, a prom and many of our final concerts and events, is that high school just went by so fast. It doesn’t feel like it’s over. Despite the fact that I have everything going for me, what with this flowing mane and big guns, I’m definitely not prepared to be living away from home.
“… The thought of starting back at square one is daunting, to say the least, but it’s a journey that we are ready to embark upon. I feel confident knowing that I have a secure position being a GSR at Nothing Bundt Cakes if my music career path doesn’t work out. In all seriousness, it’s comforting that we’ll always have the relationships we’ve built back home supporting us in our future endeavors.”
Following his speech, graduates walked, collected diplomas given by the business, turned their tassels and threw their caps in the air in celebration of reaching a milestone.
Gratefulness, some frustration
Pobocan, who plans to attend UW-Eau Claire for music/music education, called the experience “surreal”
“It’s a real honor, and it’s a blessing that I have a work establishment that cares about us that much to do this for us,” Pobocan said. “It’s a really surreal feeling that I still get to have this experience, and I’m really thankful for this.”
While grateful for Nothing Bundt Cakes ceremony, Pobocan’s stepfather, Arman Jorge, admitted to still having disappointment over Kenosha Unified School District’s decision to not hold any graduations this year.
“I’m a little disappointed because of what’s going on around us, and him not being able to walk on the stage like we wanted to see,” Jorge said. “But still though, it’s a great time for us, a great moment for us because of what he has accomplished, what he has worked for all these years.
“It was a great time seeing him, even in a little bit of what we have, what we saw today. It was actually great. And I’m really thankful for this place for putting that out.”
Though Saturday’s ceremony may not have the been the traditional kind, it was filled with what every “real” graduation has: love, support and pride.
“It’s a family here,” said Renee Brueckert, who was in attendance and has known some of the students since they were children. “They really are.”
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