Vashon’s class of 2018 graduated in the gym last Saturday evening, with a spillover crowd watching the ceremony via a live feed in the theater.
Spirits were high as school leaders and fellow students addressed the graduates and others gathered for the rite of passage. Principal Danny Rock, who shortened his remarks given the hot gym and hard bleachers, told students that the purpose of their time at Vashon High School had nothing to do with the high school itself, but instead was about their futures.
“Our hope and a powerful measure of our success is the quality of your launch from this place. When we are doing it right,” he said, “we do not look at you and see your past. We look at you and see your future.”
Faculty speaker Melissa Kehl drew laughs from many in the crowd when she said that at the end of her talk, she would share pearls of wisdom, which she stole from Michelle Obama.
“I figured if it was good enough for Melania, it would be good enough for me,” she said to cheers.
Those pearls of wisdom included telling students to be grateful, for their education and for every meal and glass of water, and to count their lucky stars each night. And she told them to do more than show up.
“Do something,” she said. “Be productive. Make a difference.”
She stated that they were a class of many talents.
“Imagine all of you making this place better. Because of you, I have hope,” she told them.
The ceremony also included several student speakers, including Sam Everitt, who the students chose to address them.
In a rapid-fire speech, he said they are in between Millennials and Generation Z, free to find their own way forward.
“We speak for ourselves and do what we want. We have the freedom to choose our own path and choose our own destiny,” he said.
He noted they are inheriting a complicated world.
“We are going to use our unique place and stand up to make a change,” he said, suggesting a 2018 paradigm shift is on the way.
He also spoke about the values of Vashon, a place where people trust their neighbors, love art, kayaking and nature and help each other out.
“If we can bring a little Vashon to the rest of the world, I think the world would be a better place for it,” he said.
As is tradition on Vashon, several students were singled out as treasures of the class for the Pieces of Eight awards. The students this year were Iris Sackman, Lizzy Sutherland, Kelsey Morrison, Leo McLeod, Tyler Barker, Ray Rivas, Amelia Wilke and Sam Briggs.
The class salutatorian, graduating with a 3.99 GPA was Riley Lynch, who is headed to Stanford University. The valedictorians, both with 4.0 GPAs, were Sasha Elenko,who will attend the University of Chicago, and Samuel Chowning, who is headed to Brown University. The duo gave a spirited presentation that concluded with the importance of laughter.
“Don’t cry, laugh,” Chowning told his classmates. “And remember there can never be anything too serious to have fun with. Our lives are way too short for anything to stop us from having a good time.”