Just over two years ago, Adelin Longhurst was enjoying her high school in her home state of Kentucky. At the time, she had no idea she would soon make an impact on a much smaller Queen Creek Unified high school in East Mesa.
But when her family made the move to Arizona, she found Eastmark High School. She enjoyed the small student population that the school still has in just its third year of existence.
Adelin wanted to become involved. She wanted to build traditions and create long-lasting memories that not only she and the rest of the student council team would always remember, but the rest of the student population as well.
Now, as senior class president, she and her fellow student council representatives said goodbye to Eastmark’s first-ever graduating class. It was a special moment not only individually, but for the group as a whole after all of their planning throughout the year.
“It’s pretty special,” Adelin said. “I think it’s pretty cool that we are the ones paving the way and everything. We know that what we are doing will hopefully last for the rest of the time this school is open.
“I feel like this school is growing with us.”
Eastmark’s graduation will take place Wednesday, May 18 at 7 p.m. at the football stadium on campus. There, 140 seniors will don cap and gowns in the school’s teal and copper color scheme for the first time.
The student council was responsible for putting together the ceremony, from speakers to fun antics on some of the administrators they chose to keep private until the ceremony concludes.
In a way, the “gift” will showcase the special bond they have built as a collective group with administrators to make the most of an exciting time.
“There’s always a tradition of handing your principal or teacher something at the end,” senior Becca Hinton said. “So, I suggested we do that. I think it’s just fun and brings back a funny inside joke.”
Becca joined student council after she arrived at Eastmark as a sophomore. Previously, she attended Queen Creek High School but saw an opportunity to become more involved at a new school with fewer students.
To this day, she considers it one of the best decisions she has ever made.
She grew close not only with the other representatives of the council but the student body as a whole. Time and time again her friends at other schools with larger populations would tell her and other STUCO members how they didn’t feel like they are a tight-knit community.
But that’s not the case at Eastmark.
As the school grew, so did they. They became more involved and wanted to establish fun traditions that would remain long after they walked across the stage and collected their diplomas. They managed to do just that.
“It’s been interesting having everyone come from different schools because we could take the things we didn’t like and adjust them,” said senior Esther Robinson, who transferred to Eastmark from Imagine Prep Superstition in Apache Junction. “But we also saw what programs did work and copy what they did and make them our own.”
Student council had its work cut out for it from the first time they met as sophomores. They had to plan dances, from those in the fall to prom toward the end of the year. They helped coordinate assemblies for sports teams and other groups, most notably the winter guard team Esther is a part of that captured the school’s first-ever state championship.
They also helped establish fun traditions like the powder puff game, which allows female students to switch roles with male football players.
Every project the student council group tried to tackle succeeded. But it wasn’t always easy.
“It’s been hard to do all of this. It’s been hard to get people to show up to events and start everything,” Becca said. “Because of that, I think it’s so much more rewarding because we’ve been able to establish things that will hopefully be around for years. We had to go all hands on, and that’s what made it special and rewarding for me.”
Drew Ammon served as the advisor for the 2022 class this year while also juggling his role as a teacher at Eastmark. He helped student council’s ideas this year turn into reality, including the graduation ceremony.
He said it was special to be a part of history at Eastmark and credited the students for their dedication to the school and making every event special in its own way.
Ammon admittedly said he is not good at goodbyes, which will make the graduation ceremony that much harder on him. But beyond that, he will also be saying goodbye to Eastmark as a whole as he will become the new athletic director at Cactus Shadows High School in Cave Creek.
His departure will be bittersweet. On one hand, he has always wanted to step into an administrative role. But on the other, he leaves behind a school where he helped establish traditions, such as powderpuff, the senior blackout game and senior sunrise.
Even from across the Valley, he hopes he can look back at Eastmark down the road and still see some of those traditions at the school. He knows that would mean a lot to student council as well.
“Even though I’ve only been around for one year, this is the second-hardest goodbye I will have to do,” Ammon said. “I always joke I’m not going to graduation, so I don’t have to say goodbye. It’s been fun. It’s probably one of the most enjoyable years of my career working with them.”
As graduation approaches, the three seniors have become increasingly aware the next stage in their lives is about to begin.
Esther will attend Arizona State University to major in business and global politics at Barrett, The Honor’s College. Adelin said she will attend Utah State University to major in business. Becca plans to attend BYU for two years and, as of now, anticipates transferring in two years to a school that offers architecture as a major.
No matter how far or close they travel for college, they will all share lasting memories of creating a culture at Eastmark – one that centers around school spirit, student involvement and fun. While they are excited to graduate, they are also aware of the fact that it will be an emotional time.
But all in all, those emotions are warranted for all they have managed to accomplish in three years that Firebird students in the future can take and build upon.
“Just seeing everyone sitting there, the people I’ve tried to serve ..., I think it will be rewarding,” Adelin said. “I’ll feel all the hard work I’ve put in all in one moment.”
“I’ll miss high school, but I’ll also be excited,” Esther added. “I keep thinking about how when we come back for our 10-year reunion and the senior class is 500 or 600 people, we will be able to say we were just a small class of about 130.
“It grew from there. It started with us.”