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Graduation features two cleanup speakers

Bob Rivera and Peter Yates may be the only commencement speakers in history who have to clean up after the ceremony. After all, graduation day is a working day for the janitors at Kingswood Regional High School in Wolfeboro, N.H.

The senior class passed over more traditional speakers and chose the two to give the commencement address.

"If they see someone in a bad mood, they'll pull them aside and ask what's wrong," said Shannon Stickney, the class president. "They probably can name every kid in the school," which has 630 students.

Rivera, 36, and Yates, 33, said they were honored.

"It's nice to know they don't just think of us as janitors," Rivera said. "We feel more like caretakers here. I feel really special right now."

"It's a step up for janitors," added Yates.

And they were unfazed by the logistics.

"On our break, we'll change into our suits," Rivera said. After their brief speeches, they'll jump back into their dungarees, ready for two or three hours of cleanup after the ceremony.

Stickney acknowledged that some of the 130 seniors at first didn't like the idea of custodians speaking at their graduation.

"That feeling has changed," he said. "Now, they're looking at the person, beyond the name tag."

When told they were picked, "at first I was a little skeptical," Rivera said. "We play so many jokes on people around here I didn't know if it was serious."

Both plan to deliver serious speeches. On June 14, the day before graduation and after students leave for the day, the two plan a private dress rehearsal. But they first have to set up the stage, put up the rope barriers, clean the field and test the electrical equipment.