HUDSON — Some seniors at Hudson High wore red or gold or white honor cords because their grades were so strong they had to be described in Latin — cum laude.
Josh Deskins was happy to describe his status in plain English: graduate.
He wore the same brilliant red cap and gown as the school's other seniors who turned their tassels Friday night in the middle of the school's football field.
But he didn't know he'd be allowed to do so until two days before the ceremony.
"Never wait till the last minute," said Deskins, 18, with a shy grin.
His name did not make it on the commencement program. He said he had to pass an online American history class in a last-minute dash to qualify — not the least helped by purposeful nudging by his girlfriend and classmate, Jacqueline Monahan.
But he did it. He walked. He crossed the stage and carried off the ceremonial diploma.
The moment brought his dad, Terry, and mom, Joy, to tears. They watched from a fence skirting the end zone, tears trickling. Divorced, they hugged.
"I've very proud of him," said his father, once a West Virginia coal miner who said he now lives on disability because of back injuries.
"He's a good kid," said his mom, adding Josh never forgets Mother's Day and even made a special trip to see her on prom night so she could see him in a tux.
The family hasn't had it easy, not with Terry's health, uncle Larry Wilson said. Josh works a lot of hours as an Outback prep cook to make money, his family said.
"We're not poor," Wilson said. "We've got cars to drive."
In the ceremony, Valedictorian Mary Cook and Salutatorian Lauren Stump said a lot about their class of 2008's happy memories, such as the powder puff games and water-gunning the younger students.
They talked about the good advice — anything worth doing is worth doing well — and thanked their parents, family and friends.
As beach balls bounced above the graduates' heads until being stowed — to boos — they talked about visions of their futures.
Florida State University football coach. Doctors. Big-time universities. Grand accomplishment.
"What lies ahead of us is vast compared to what lies behind us," Cook said.
Josh said he wants to run a mechanic's shop. His family said he's gone to job fairs, thought about more schooling.
Afterward, he hugged his family but had the look of a guy at once celebrating the moment and ready to get going. He had plans for the night. The day was finally, officially, certainly his.
David DeCamp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6232.