The crowd stood as the band began to play the traditional Pomp and Circumstance and 23 students filed out in their caps and gowns to finally take their place front and center of the high school gymnasium.Valedictorian Grace Zimmerman spoke of her community and school with obvious pride and called upon all to do even better. She called upon the community to use their voice and create change in the school where they see need. She challenged the students to respect their teachers and their school, to take pride in their hometown and to consider their legacy.
“I challenge you to be confident in who you are as an individual,” Zimmerman said. “But also don’t be afraid to be vulnerable at times and share who you are as a person. One cannot be honest and vulnerable if they are not also courteous, respectful and loyal in their own friendships. Be careful not to accidently exchange trust for popularity. Ultimately be careful about the legacy you leave behind when you sit here before your family, friends and peers on your graduation day. How do you want them to remember you?”
Finally, she challenged the teachers.
“To the staff,” she said, “keep your expectations of us high. Remember that students can only rise to expectations if those expectations clearly exist. I can honestly say without these expectations I wouldn’t have made learning as much of a priority.”
When it was her turn to speak, Class Speaker Kayti Nelson walked to the podium and started by removing her smart phone out of her pocket and taking a selfie with her class.
She began her speech playfully, noting that the walk to the stage was difficult for the “rhythmically challenged” and sharing funny anecdotes from past years. Then she became more serious, momentarily overcome by emotion.
“Over the years here, we have become a family. It’s part of the magic of this place,” Green said.
She began to talk about the picture she had taken before her speech.
“This year, 2014, our year, is the year that the world selfie was officially entered into Webster’s Dictionary,” she said. “The mirror setting has become the default setting on smart phone cameras. Selfies have become so popular that these tiny boxes we keep in our back pockets are built to assume that we want to take pictures of ourselves. Classmates, as we go out into a world that has turned our lenses around, let’s look at the earth and the wonder it holds and appreciate the work done by generations before us.
"But let us also see flaw. Let us see where work still needs to be done and then turn the selfie lens back around and ask ‘what can I do?’ Let’s turn our lenses around to see other people in a moment of glory then flip them back around and ask, ‘what can I learn?’ Lens towards others, see their pain. Lens towards ourselves. How can I help? We are well equipped.
"We have spent the last 12 years of our lives learning valuable lessons and we have been given the necessary tools to serve. I know that whenever we return here we will see the ghosts of our childhood and think of the great memories that we’ve made. But I hope more than that, whenever we do return that we are living as examples that this school and this town will be proud of.”
Faculty advisor Rob Dalton spoke of having three Katies in the same class and two sets of twins and two friends who were joined at the hip, much like twins. He spoke of the Gonzalez family whose children he had been teaching for 19 years. And he shared his memory of a basketball game involving the girls in the graduating class.
“It was the weirdest middle school basketball game ever,” he said. “We managed to lose to a North Beach team that only had three girls left to start the fourth quarter. I was being stubborn; we could have gone to a zone and won the thing. Five of our girls were guarding two of their three girls. To top it off, the ref halted the game to throw out an unruly North Beach fan. Turned out the fan was a police officer.”
He went on to quote Winston Churchill. “To each there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents.”
“I think this quote is as appropriate today for this graduating class as it was for those brave soldiers back then. Whichever path you take,” he told the class, “I believe in you. On behalf of the rest of the staff, I thank you for sharing your lives with us. We are proud of you and we wish you the very best in your future.”
His speech was followed by a slide show, a presentation of scholarships, awards and diplomas, and then Superintendent Lisa Nelson presented the Naselle/Grays River Class of 2014.
And with the moving of the tassels came a burst of energy, as the new alumni of Naselle Grays River High School joyfully tossed their caps into the air.