Graduation days: Friends graduate together 3 times

Two longtime Wapakoneta friends have donned caps and gowns together for three different graduations.

Twenty-two-year-olds Laura Koch and Sheri Garman first graduated together from Small World Preschool in 1995. They attended the Wapakoneta preschool together for two years and remember playing together in the gym at the church where it was held.

It was the lone graduation where they didn’t wear actual graduation gowns, but both remember picking out pretty dresses for the special occasion. The 5-year-olds’ caps, with yarn tassels, were made of blue paper.

The women, who were born just three weeks apart, have been friends since birth, born three weeks apart to mothers who worked together at Ponderosa.

Through the years after preschool, Laura and Sheri attended Centennial, Northridge and Buckland schools together before moving on to Wapakoneta Middle and High schools.

During their 13 years attending classes at Wapakoneta City Schools, they weren’t always in the same classes or had the same teachers, but they always remained friends.

As girls, Sheri remembers Laura’s mom braiding her hair and playing together with their My Twins dolls they both had that looked like them.

“I always packed everything to go to her house,” Laura said.

“There were a lot of sleepovers,” Sheri said.

They still get a kick out of how they could keep their mothers talking so that short visits turned into longer playdates for the girls.

In high school, Laura and Sheri took no classes together and were involved in complete opposite activities. Sheri sang in show choir and bowled, while Laura golfed and was active in FFA.

“We are very similar but just have different interests,” said Sheri, who grew up in the city of Wapakoneta, while Laura lived in the country near Fryburg.

Their friends ran in “herds,” but together, Laura and Sheri especially liked to get ice cream.

“Anything one of us wanted to do, it was usually a safe bet that the other one would go with,” Laura said.

Outside of school, they took dance classes and went to football and basketball games together before putting on their white caps and gowns at 18 to graduate from Wapakoneta High School in 2008.

They both went on to attend Bowling Green State University and live together for a year while they were there.

“I knew I was going to go to Bowling Green for education since eighth-grade,” Laura said.

Although Sheri didn’t make her decision so soon, her future path also led her to BGSU, although she majored in human development and family studies.

While at Bowling Green, Laura and Sheri both competed in the school’s biggest fundraiser — a 36-hour dance marathon to benefit the Children’s Miracle Network — but in different years, and were able to support each other.

This time, wearing black caps and gowns, they graduated in the same ceremony on the same May day from Bowling Green, even though their majors were different.

“When you go to preschool, you have 20 kids in a class,” Laura said. “I never thought we would go so far together.”

For the first time in more than 22 years, the two friends now find themselves in different places as Sheri, the daughter of Pam and Ron Garman, is beginning a job in Cincinnati working with disadvantaged people and Laura, the daughter of Julie and Leo Koch, is applying for jobs teaching middle school science or math across the state.

“We’ve never been three hours away,” said Laura as they wondered how the change would be, especially since they just spent every day of the last year together.    “I’m sure there will be visits wherever we are and always when we are home.”

Being friends for so long Sheri said allows them the comfort of having someone with whom they can be themselves.

“We are both kind of weird so it works out,” Sheri said as they shared a laugh, something else they enjoy doing together.

They know when the other needs space and when they need a hug or a giggle.

“It’s neat to have someone who understands you from day one, what you’re like and your background,” Laura said. “Looking back now, it’s amazing to say we’ve been together 22 years, that we‘ve graduated together three times, having a friend from preschool and staying friends for so long seems unusual.”