The sun shined brightly during the Commencement ceremony for the Vashon Island High School (VHS) Class of 2022 on Saturday evening at the VHS Stadium.
On June 11, 131 seniors received their diplomas after a day of graduation festivities, including the traditional graduation car parade – where graduates were cheered on by islanders as they made their way down Vashon Highway in cars decorated with signs, balloons and streamers.
Following the processional of the graduates, Vashon Island School District Superintendent Slade McSheehy welcomed the community to Commencement and applauded the graduating class for their accomplishments in athletics, service and academics.
“Keep learning, do great things, [and] support each other,” said McSheehy. “This is your night, Class of 2022.”
Danny Rock, the principal of VHS, also commended the Class of 2022 for their persistence, and how the seniors “kept showing up over and over” throughout the school year, especially as the world “fundamentally shifted” while the students were in high school.
Rock added that while the graduating class had reasons to quit along the way, they leaned in and stood steady.
This year’s graduating class had selected Jason Butler, a VHS Social Studies teacher, as the faculty speaker.
Butler gently teased the graduates in his speech, evoking laughter from the graduates and the crowd in the stadium. Advice given ranged from getting a haircut, avoiding cutoff jeans, and stating that “NFTs [non-fungible tokens] are a scam.”
Butler advised the Class of 2022 that “something does not need to be perfect to be wonderful,” and spoke about the importance of making mistakes, as character, grit and integrity are not made by avoiding mistakes.
“Avoiding mistakes is a great way to not learn anything,” he added.
“Be well, do good work, go Pirates,” said Butler, as he concluded his speech.
The Senior Class speaker, Davis Kelly, and the Senior Class Cabinet, including Kelly, Theo Newcomb, George Murphy, Julia Papa, Sofia Pedras and Lucy Wing, addressed the crowd following Butler’s speech.
Those in attendance at Commencement were then treated to a performance by the band Pigeon, comprised of four seniors – Lucy Woodruff, Phoebe Setter, Aidan Clark and Simon Grant.
Pigeon performed an original song, “Good Old Days,” as well as “Where’s All the Time Go,” by Dr. Dog.
As part of Vashon tradition, eight seniors were selected for the Pieces of Eight Award. Honorees receive a sterling silver medallion, which is a replica of an 18th-century coin retrieved from a shipwreck off the coast of Florida. This year, the medallion was created by VHS Jewelry teacher Kate Dunagan.
Awards are given in eight categories, which include Commitment, Pride in Pirates, Engagement, Leadership, Service, Inspiration, Citizenship and Integrity.
Alyssa Hawkins received the award in Commitment, Sam Walker received the award for Pride in Pirates, Woodruff received the award in Engagement, Katy Kirkpatrick received the award for Leadership, Archer Gallegos received the award in Service, Wendy Axtelle received the award for Inspiration, George Murphy received the award for Citizenship and Kelly received the award for Integrity.
Six students were named as valedictorians, which included Hawkins, Tyler Huffman, Ryder Jones, Ryen Kirschner, Erik Pringle and Amelia Spence. The Class of 2022’s salutatorian was Emma Deines.
Hawkins and Jones shared how their experiences commuting to the island and growing up on the island, respectively, shaped their experiences in school in a speech they created together.
Jones, who is attending Claremont McKenna College in the fall, spoke about how he knew many of his fellow graduates as early as preschool and kindergarten.
Hawkins, who is attending the University of Alabama in the fall, said that as a commuter from Southworth who began attending Vashon schools in the sixth grade she “never felt unwelcome” and Vashon was able to welcome her with open arms.
Jones recounted memories like placing doorstops in ceiling tiles, “shenanigans in Dockton,” and celebrating the final bell of his high school career, and said that he hoped his classmates would be able to memories of high school into their next chapter.
As a commuter, said Hawkins as she concluded the speech, “[the] past seven years have proven leaps of faith are worth it.”
Pringle, who is attending California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, shared that he was struck by how far he and his classmates had come.
He also offered advice in his speech, such as the importance of living in the moment.
“Take the present for what it is – a present,” said Pringle.
Huffman and Kirschner presented their speech together, offering advice and reflecting on their time on Vashon.
Huffman, who is attending the University of Washington, reflected on how the Class of 2022 “survived massive upheaval, on mediocre amounts of sleep” throughout their high school career.
“Like we’ve learned from viruses and double-sided tests, there’s always another problem,” added Kirschner, who will attend Illinois Wesleyan University.
Huffman added that while no one could say the graduating class had it easy throughout the last four years, there is still much to be done in society.
“We have the power to change our world,” said Huffman. “…But I, for one, believe in us.”
Kirschner added that she hopes the Class of 2022 remembers their value and that they are not alone.
“Thanks, and we’re proud of all of you,” she said.