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Pomp and Cyberspace: A Proud Global Family Looks on

May 14, 1996

CLEVER, Mo. (AP) _ Pomp and circumstance, meet cyberspace.

When the 24 graduates of Clever High School marched across the gymnasium floor Monday night, they were being admired by more than just the people in the bleachers.

A global family was proudly logging in and looking on via the Internet.

``They told me congratulations,″ said 17-year-old Riikka Ruokonen, whose parents in Finland were online for the event. ``It was really neat. I loved it.″

Music teacher Dan Swadley came up with the idea after meeting Ruokonen.

``I thought, man, what a shame,″ he said. ``She’s sacrificed basically and spent her senior year here, and her parents are going to be asleep as she graduates.″

As it turned out, Ruokonen’s parents got very little sleep graduation day. Around 4 a.m. Finnish time, Esko and Liisa Ruokonen were in front of a computer at a university in Lappeenranta. Through a 3-inch, black-and-white screen, they were able to chat with their daughter and watch her give a speech to the graduating class at the southwest Missouri school.

Also watching from afar was the mother of 18-year-old Patrik Melin. His father attended the ceremony while his mother remained in Sweden. Melin said the Internet hookup was the next best thing to having her in the audience.

``I know she can watch me,″ he said.

The school staged the Internet graduation by using a video conferencing program called CU-SeeMe. The software, developed by Cornell University, allows the live transmission of video. Users send a signal from a standard video camera into the computer, and then via a modem and telephone lines to a remote spot.

Members of the cyber-audience tuned in by dialing the correct Internet address. The school sent the address to Clever students’ relatives in the United States and Canada _ including Ruokonen’s twin sister, Hanna, an exchange student in Dongola, Ill.

The school did not publicly release the Internet address in hopes of limiting the number of cyberspace visitors. The program moves more slowly with a greater number of users.

Principal Richard Henson said he hoped the Internet would bring a global perspective to even an ``itty-bitty school out in the sticks.″

``That’s the great thing about the Internet,″ he said. ``It’s the great equalizer. Class of 25 or 2,500 _ Internet access is Internet access. It opens up the whole world to these kids.″

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