Wahkiakum High School's Class of 2012 is on its way.
The seniors came to their graduation ceremony last Friday; they gave thanks, received their diplomas and celebrated.
High school Principal Dan Casler introduced the group of 31 seniors, saying they are an extremely optimistic group with amazing individual stories, unique experiences, and great empathy for those around them.
The class was required to meet state standards in reading, writing and math to graduate, he said, and 18 of the students met the standards initially; the others followed up to complete them.
Class speakers expressed appreciation to the staff, their families and the community at large for contributing to their education.
"We want to thank you once again for supporting us these past four years," said Brett Chaput in welcoming the audience, "and for celebrating with us tonight as we take our last steps through this school as students and leave as adults ready to start our lives."
Salutatorian James Turner developed that theme. He pointed out that the world populations is estimated to be over seven billion people.
"Seven billion anonymous characters converging toward societal, economical, and technological advances," he said, "and from that community, from that world, came the opportunity for this class of 2012 to be here graduating tonight. Thank you."
Faculty choice speaker Abby Buennagel told of becoming fixated on a teacher's book called "The Energy Bus." She borrowed it and learned "10 Rules for the Ride of Your Life," ranging from 1. You're the bus driver to 10. Have fun and enjoy the ride.
"So, my friends," she said, "we've had a long ride together. Our ride is coming to its end tonight, but we are all beginning new journeys of our own. I believe, no, I know that every single person up here on this stage is going to drive their bus somewhere amazing."
Valedictorian Ashley Silva spoke her classmates' graciousness. This is a direct reflection of the community, she said, and it is the reason for the students' success.
"Throughout high school, there has never been a time that I have felt helpless," she said. "Not many people realize how amazing our community is. No matter what you need, there is always help for you out there somewhere, and there will always be someone there to support you. In our school we have many adults that have always been there for us."
Class choice speaker Brieanna Olsen spoke of the close bonds the classmates have developed and the growth they've achieved. She spoke of the fear she felt as a kindergarten student climbing to the top of the high slide, looking down, and then having to climb back to the ground without sliding.
"I couldn't do it; I was too scared," she said. "And right now, that is how I feel again. We can either slide down the slide, or we can turn back around and not conquer our fears. And I hope that every single one of us in this class slides down the slide with confidence. We have worked way too hard to turn back and walk back down."
Foreign exchange students Andrea Sos (Hungary) and Leonardo Onodera (Brazil) expressed thanks for the welcome of the school and the community in their year away from their homes.
"It's hard to say good bye, but I know I will see some of you in the future," Onodera said. "This planet is not that big, and our lives may be really long!"
In closing remarks, Blaine Land noted achievements of some of the classmates--Blayne Edwards winning a state wrestling championship; Kendall Johns publishing his own record; Brett Chaput breaking the school discus throw record, and the group of girls with remarkable community service.
"We, the class of 2012, have made a dent at Wa-Ki-Hi, and that's something that will forever be remembered," she said. "I stand here for the class of 2012 and say thank you to everyone and thank you for coming tonight. We couldn't have done it without you."
Principal Casler presented several awards to students, including:
--Certificates of Academic Achievement to the 18 students who initially passed the reading, writing and math tests;
--Outstanding Senior Project by Lev Tsybikov;
--Outstanding Attendance by Kylee Johnson and Leonardo Onodera;
--Associated Student Body Officer Awards to President Blaine Land, Vice-president Ashley Silva, and Secretary Brieanna Olsen, and
--President's Award for Educational Excellence to Ashley Silva.
The seniors received a variety of scholarships, including: