>The Spring Lake High School class of 2012 placed an empty chair of the middle of the student section in honor of Jerovsek during Sunday's graduation. The chair was draped in an orange cap and gown – Jerovsek’s favorite color.
The pomp memorialized the circumstance – a boat crash killed Jerovsek in September 2009.
Students silently placed white and red roses on the empty chair, a tribute to their fallen friend and classmate, as they sat down.
“Sometimes you don't have to say a lot, to say a lot,” Spring Lake High School Principal Mike Gilchrist said of the tribute.
While Gilchrist spoke of Jerovsek, he also spoke of the accolades of the class of 2012.
The principal noted that 76 percent of the students earned a 3.0 or better grade point average, 27 of them scored more than 30 on the ACT, they raised $12,000 for charities and earned a school record $6 million in scholarships.
“Above all else, they're just truly wonderful kids,” Gilchrist said before the ceremony.
The 2012 ceremony included a welcome by student council president Joseph Rohloff, and speeches by senior scholars Keith Allison and Kayli Horne, and class president Kyle Kendall.
“They always did what we asked – and with respect,” Gilchrist said. “They're going to go out into the world and achieve at a high level because they do things the right way.”
Graduate Michael Bernard, 18, thought of Jerovsek during the ceremony.
“It was a tough day knowing he would have been there with us,” said Bernard, who plans to attend Grand Valley State University.
Graduate Tyler Essenberg noted the ceremony was bittersweet.
“I enjoyed the speeches, but I have a lot of mixed emotions,” Essenberg said. “Robby and I were good friends in fifth and sixth grade. I have a lot of mixed emotions.”
Following the ceremony, the students proceeded to the flag pole for the mortar board toss.
Gilchrist stood by and watched, saying his goodbyes to a class that he said excelled at both curriculum and caring, test questions and real life challenges.
“I'm impressed with them,” Gilchrist said. “They're good people and good citizens. They're going to make good husbands and wives, and contribute much to society. I will miss them.”