Students of the Vashon High School Class of 2019 graduated on the new track and field last Saturday evening, June 15, as friends and family members watched them cross the stage to receive their diplomas.
The mood was festive as school leaders and others in attendance took their seats before Principal Danny Rock addressed the graduates and crowd. He began by remarking how he admired superheroes growing up, and that he was pleased they are as beloved as ever with Marvel films dominating at the box office.
“What an affection for superpowers does for me these days is that it helps keep alive the hope for something remarkable. The hope that in the face of great odds, of seeming defeat, there is always a way through,” he said, adding that in contrast, many politicians have seemingly lost that vision for the country and the ability to solve problems together.
“Fear, anxiety and hate can still be found in our communities. Things are looking pretty dark, right? Here’s the good part: you. You are a collection of skills, abilities and character that will see us through this mess,” said Rock.
Per Lars Blomgren, a Vashon physical education teacher and the faculty speaker, tripped on the field on his way up to the podium.
“The first thing in my notes, it said ‘trip,’” he said. “So you can check that off the list right now.”
In his speech, Blomgren said he believes there are lessons everyone should learn — to borrow money wisely and get off the phone, to talk to people more, get lost, and accept that it is OK not to know everything. He became emotional telling the graduates that years from now, flying over the island into SeaTac Airport, they would have something outside the window to show the person sitting next to them in the middle seat.
“Even if they’re sleeping, you wake them up, and you point to Vashon, and you tell them that you grew up here or you went to school here, and if they have any sense in the world, they’ll think that’s cool,” he said.
The senior class speaker, Frosty (Forest) Bowden, said that as recently as last year he didn’t like going to school. Working a job he didn’t like, Bowden said he had friends who didn’t support him or one another. But he found a new group to sit with at lunch who made all the difference and saved his senior year.
Bowden added that he believes the high school pushes students toward a 4-year college track while neglecting those who are interested in learning a trade, and does not adequately support students who try but struggle.
“But this isn’t about the flaws in the system,” he said, noting that the class has accomplished much to be proud of. “This day is about us beating the system.”
As in the past, several students were identified as being treasures of the class and were chosen for the “Pieces of Eight” awards. Those recipients were Lucy Boyle, Colin Pottinger, Ava Butler, Emily Levin, Lars Cain, Lucy Axtelle, Jacob Chavez and Lewis Kanagy.
The class salutatorian was Anna Riggs with a 3.97 grade point average. She will attend Santa Clara University in the fall.
The four valedictorians, each with 4.0 grade point averages, were Lucy Boyle, Julia Macray, Mabel Moses and Garrett Mueller. Boyle will attend Oregon State University; Macray will attend the University of California Berkeley; Moses will attend the University of British Columbia and Mueller will attend Brigham Young University.
Each delivered a short address to the class. Macray said that her generation will together need to confront climate change, unequal access to education, poverty and racism. She added that the class should not be discouraged by the challenges ahead of them.
“Often it’s difficult to listen to the news or read the paper. It can sometimes seem like there isn’t any hope for the future,” she said. “But all of you sitting here today in front of me, [and] all the future leaders graduating on fields and stadiums across the country and world this spring, you are that hope.”