KINGMAN - Darrian Pennington wasn't about to let a little medical emergency stop her from participating in the Class of 2014 graduation ceremony Thursday evening at Kingman High School.
Pennington, who wore a white honors gown because she had a grade point average of 3.6 or higher, rested in a wheelchair in the gymnasium as the school's 399 seniors prepared to move to the Bulldog football field for the commencement ceremony. Just the night before, Pennington, 17, had undergone a laparoscopic appendectomy at Kingman Regional Medical Center after becoming unexpectedly ill.
"I worked so hard to graduate and I wasn't going to miss it for anything," said Pennington. "My grandma did everything she could to have them do the surgery last night because they had it scheduled for this morning and I would have missed graduation. But they all knew how much this ceremony meant to me and got me in and out in time."
Pennington had worked hard enough to win a scholarship to Mohave Community College so she can become a registered nurse. Despite her fragile condition Thursday, she led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance during the ceremony.
Bjorn Porlein, 18, the school's only foreign exchange student this year, didn't want to miss out on the special night, either. Porlein came to Kingman in September from Helsingborg, Sweden, to stay with host parents Rob and Edith Patterson and their 17-year-old son, Josh Patterson, a junior at KHS.
Porlein said he had never been to America before and wanted to experience it firsthand while brushing up on his rudimentary English skills. During his time here, Porlein took a variety of classes and played soccer at the high school. He returns to Sweden on Sunday and plans to pursue a law degree.
"It's been really great," said Porlein. "At first, I was disappointed because I wanted to go to California. Then I realized how awesome it was here. I had to get used to the sun, and the desert is really different than the cold and green of Sweden, but now Kingman is like a paradise to me. I made a lot of very good friends while I was here and I'm sad to leave. I love America and hope to be able to come back someday."
During the commencement ceremony, administrators, teachers and other students wished the graduates good luck and encouraged them to follow their dreams. A somber hush fell over the crowd as the family of 17-year-old Cody Raymond accepted an honorary diploma in his name.
Raymond was killed in July 2013 in a two-vehicle crash when an allegedly drunken driver rear-ended his vehicle at milepost 59 on Route 66. Delbert Brechler, 45, of Kingman, was driving a 1998 Volvo passenger car when he struck the back of the 1990 Ford pickup driven by Raymond. Brechler is slated to go to trial at 9:30 a.m. June 9 in Superior Court.
During the ceremony, senior Marissa Newman's father, Paul Newman, and stepfather, Carl White, waited with handfuls of balloons congratulating the 18-year-old on her accomplishment. Paul Newman drove the nine-hour route from Sacramento to surprise his daughter with a 2014 Honda vehicle. White is married to the graduate's mother, Patricia White, and they live in Golden Valley.
"It's important that Marissa plans on going to college now," said Paul Newman, noting his daughter wants to be a dentist and will be attending Mohave Community College this fall. "I came out here to support her so she'll continue with her education."