Prescott High’s senior tour, a significant moment

Prescott High School soon-to-be graduates get high and low fives from Taylor Hicks students as they took their Wednesday, May 23, 2018 morning off as they went on their Senior Celebration Tour visiting the elementary and middle schools they may have attended in the past. (Les Stukenberg/Courier)

Prescott High School soon-to-be graduates get high and low fives from Taylor Hicks students as they took their Wednesday, May 23, 2018 morning off as they went on their Senior Celebration Tour visiting the elementary and middle schools they may have attended in the past. (Les Stukenberg/Courier)

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Prescott High School soon to be graduates get high and low fives from Taylor Hicks students as they took their Wednesday, May 23, 2018 morning off as they went on their Senior Celebration Tour visiting the elementary and middle schools they may have attended in the past. (Les Stukenberg/Courier)

Prescott High School’s Class of 2018 was feted in fine style on Wednesday afternoon — preschoolers to middle schoolers cheered them on in gauntlet style at the district schools where many got started.

“Go Seniors!” declared hand-printed signs by kindergartners at Taylor Hicks, including one little boy who dyed his hair blue and yellow in honor of the graduating Badgers.

For the third year in a row, two busloads of soon-to-be graduates donned their bright blue caps and gowns for an almost three-hour tour of the six-school district, welcomed not only by their fellow students but by some of their former teachers, principals and very proud parents.

One last stop was on the north steps of the Yavapai County Courthouse where a number of parents and local residents cheered these young adults who on Friday night will collect their diplomas before heading off on their next adventures, be it to college, the military or to the first rung on their career ladder.

Taylor Hicks Principal Kelsey Secor, who also has two daughters in the district who will one day be on a similar tour, said she appreciates the chance to welcome the graduates back to their roots.

“Anything we can do to celebrate their accomplishments, I’m all for,” Secor said.

Among the proudest parents on this year’s tour were two district leaders — Prescott Unified Superintendent Joe Howard and Prescott High School Principal Stephanie Hillig.

Howard, and his wife, Jenna, a special education teacher at Mile High Middle School, are celebrating the graduation of their twin sons, Jonah and Jason. And Hillig, who is departing the high school to become Abia Judd Elementary’s principal in the fall, will celebrate the graduation of her twin daughters, Kirsten and Kara.

“Double proud,” Howard said of this year’s senior tour that saw him cheering students he has known not only as the district’s top educator but as peers of his sons.

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Prescott High School soon to be graduates get high and low fives from Taylor Hicks students as they took their Wednesday, May 23, 2018 morning off as they went on their Senior Celebration Tour visiting the elementary and middle schools they may have attended in the past. (Les Stukenberg/Courier)

A favorite moment for Howard was when Lincoln Elementary Principal Karen Hughes pulled out a photo of her former second-grade class — the Howard twins’ smiling faces in the mix. The superintendent said he can all too clearly remember watching his boys and their classmates, now their fellow graduates, performing in their very first Thanksgiving play. Then came the onslaught of emotion as Howard watched his boys stand with their longtime classmates and peers to hug their mother at Mile High Middle School – not once but twice.

“It was special,” Howard declared.

At Taylor Hicks, Hillig was all smiles as she watched the troupe of seniors enter and exit, clearly delighted by their reception and chance to step back in time to when they were just starting their K-12 journey.

“It’s very fun to see the younger students doing their high-fives and congrats,” Hillig said. “It’s also fun to see these (high school) kids in their caps and gowns for the first time.

“This has been such a special class to me. I’ve known many of them since the first grade.”

Inside the school, a PUSD counselor and mother, Tracey Frederiksen, held up a sign for her son, Jake, the high school band’s drum line captain, and another grad, Colton, who she described as “a son from another mother.”

“Oh my Gosh, I’m a ball of emotion. I’m going to laugh and cry at the same time,” she said of the pending commencement festivities.

For near-graduate John Chaffeur, the tour was “kind of surreal.”

“I love it. We get to see where we started, and they get to see how we finish,” Chaffeur said.

Taylor Hicks Principal Kelsey Secor, who also has two daughters in the district who will one day be on a similar tour, said she likes that these graduates get to return to their roots and at the same time be role models for the children who are just beginning their educational journey.

“Anything we can do to celebrate their accomplishments, I’m all for,” Secor said.

“This is like a final walk,” declared fellow senior Scarlett Manrique. “Everyone’s smiling today; it’s really fantastic.”