TRUCKEE, Calif. — While Saturday was a day of celebration for 154 students graduating from Truckee High School, the memory of a fallen member of the 2013 class was on everyone’s mind.
Andrew L. Metlenko, 18, died Tuesday, June 11, in a single-vehicle rollover accident in Sierra County, northeast of Truckee, just four days shy of graduating.
“As we all know, we lost a beloved member of our community and the class of 2013 this week with the passing of Andrew Metlenko,” said Rob Leri, Tahoe Truckee Unified School District superintendent, at the start of Saturday’s graduation ceremonies at Surprise Stadium.
A moment of silence soon followed, and the sound of sniffling and quiet weeping could be heard among graduation attendees.
Tokens such as flowers, balloons and a signed baseball bat with messages were left at Metlenko’s chair, set aside from his classmates’ seats and adorned with his cap and gown.
As for his diploma — the first one given out — Metlenko’s brothers Trevor, 15, and Cole, 10, accepted it to a thunderous, extended round of applause filled with whoo-hoos, bell ringing and air horn blasts.
As Metlenko’s fellow classmates threw their caps into the air after collecting their own diplomas, Trevor Metlenko and Kaylee Neill released 18 balloons into the air, a tribute to Andrew’s baseball number. Neill’s brother, Corey Adam Neill, survived the rollover last Tuesday.
Fittingly, considering Andrew’s love for baseball, the balloons went straight to the Truckee High baseball field, said his mother, Laura Metlenko.
“We knew he had a lot of friends, but didn’t know how many lives he touched,” Laura said. “It was very heartwarming.”
Afterward, members of the class of 2013 raised their hands, revealing the number 18 written on their palms.
A memorial service celebrating Metlenko life will be held at noon Saturday at Surprise Stadium. Friends and family are encouraged to attend.