Italy, Texas, Class of 2024 Holds Graduation in their Monolithic Dome

Congratulations to the Class of 2024.

Congratulations to the Italy, Texas, high school graduating Class of 2024.

May 2024 has been an intense month of heavy thunderstorms in Italy, Texas. Those who live here agree it feels more like monsoon season than spring. When there are breaks in the storms, it’s time for an outdoor sauna with “feels like” temps in the 100s.

Graduating Gladiators.

The Italy High School class of 2024 is ready for their graduation ceremony to begin. Commencement is usually held at the school’s football stadium, but the heat index prompted a move to their Monolithic Dome multipurpose center.

Rebecca South / Monolithic

Italy High School intended to hold their graduation ceremony in their new, shiny stadium, but as the temperature continued to climb last Friday, it became clear it would be unsafe to hold the festivities outside. Late in the day, the school district sent an alert that graduation had been moved to the multipurpose Monolithic Dome gymnasium, the Gladiator Coliseum.

I hitched a ride into town with my brother, Mike, and my sister-in-law, Tessa. On the way, we talked excitedly about their youngest son graduating this year. Mike and I parted ways with Tessa when we arrived at the high school—she’s a school board member and was slated to sit on the stage with the board and other administrators.

I didn’t think much about the event being held in the gym until I was sitting on the bleachers next to my brother, watching people file in. Suddenly, I was transported back 20+ years to when I first sat in the newly finished gym with my dad, David B. South. He was so proud of the building and hoped it would serve the community well in the coming years.

Congratulations, Frankie!

My nephew, Francis (Frankie) Jesse South, waves to his fans in the bleachers during the procession of graduates.

Rebecca South / Monolithic

Who’s the Boss?

Mike and I just before the procession of graduates began.

Rebecca South / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Mike and I weren’t much more than kids back in those days, but no one can argue we’re kids anymore. His youngest was graduating, and my eldest daughter is about to turn 30. Reflecting on the events and games we’ve attended in the dome made me appreciate the passage of time and the fullness of the years since its construction.

The Monolithic Dome gym is four or five years older than the 2024 graduates of Italy High. It’s been around long enough that the novelty has pretty much worn off. The dome is a normal part of life around here now. When I talked to a friend about it earlier today, they told me that people talk about the dome the most whenever a tornado warning or watch is issued.

The Gladiator Coliseum is the town’s disaster shelter. When we hear the warning sirens, people are glad to know the building will be open to the community.

The graduating class of 2024 is used to the idea of a dome as a school gym. It’s no more unusual to them than any other gym. I asked a few of this year’s graduates if they had any thoughts to share about the dome, and I mostly got confused looks in return. After some back and forth, I was told it was like asking them if they liked tables or any other thing that is a normal part of life.

Proud Papa.

I snapped this picture of Mike while he was taking photos of his wife, Tessa, handing their son, Frankie, his diploma!

Rebecca South / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

I love that. I remember when everyone—-and I mean everyone—-thought all domes were weird. When I graduated high school in 1991, there was only one Monolithic Dome educational facility in the world—-the high school campus for the Emmett school district in Emmett, Idaho. Now, there are dozens and dozens of Monolithic Dome schools, gyms or community shelters across the US. More are built every year—-especially since FEMA began giving grants that pay for up to 75% of the cost of the dome shell.

Not everyone was ambivalent about the dome. 2024 graduate Luke Drake said, “At first, I had no desire to graduate in the dome as I wanted to spend my last time being an Italy Gladiator on the football field I played throughout my time of being in school. However, when I walked into the dome, the echo from the dome magnified the sound of all the cheering of family and friends and made me realize this is, in fact, where I wanted to spend my last day.”

Mr. Drake’s classmate, Clayton Hellner, has always considered the dome to be a classy venue. He said, “Not all schools are lucky enough to have a dome that is also one of the safest places to play basketball, have assemblies, and just play around.”

Italy always organizes a beautiful graduation ceremony. I’ve never seen my nephew so happy in his life. It was fun to come together as a community to support the students we are all so proud of.

I feel close to my dad when I’m in the Gladiator Coliseum. For Mike and I, it’s always the best place in town to hold activities, so we’re biased. Still, everyone I talked to expressed gratitude that when things got too hot, they had a solid backup plan. Inside the dome, it was cool and comfortable, while outside it quickly moved from being way too hot to way too wet. Everyone got a good drenching when dashing from the gym to their cars after the ceremony was over.

Congratulations to the Italy High School Class of 2024 from all of us at Monolithic. Go Gladiators!

You’re Invited.

The cover of the 2024 Italy ISD graduation announcement.

Italy ISD / Submitted Media

Prescient Foreshadowing?

The open card of the graduation announcements for the 2024 class of Italy High School in Italy, Texas. This artistic rendering of Italy ISD’s Gladiator Coliseum is always included in the school’s commencement announcements.

Italy ISD / Submitted Media