Congrats, grads!

Bravo, Class of 2024, and Bon Voyage. You got this.

There they go — Vashon’s class of 2024.

Congratulations to our 132 graduates, who celebrated the end of this chapter of their lives last weekend with a parade, ceremonies, and, we hope, a night of safe and responsible camaraderie.

Our young people are a direct reflection of our investments. We decide how to equip them for adult life. Who they become — and what matters to them — reflects back on our island community.

That is why we devote so much time in The Beachcomber to covering the goings-on, administration, and finances of our school district. What happens in our halls of learning matters so much because these institutions represent the legacy of our island.

That’s also why we’re so happy about what the graduates themselves identified as important about their high school experience. During the graduation events, those seniors spoke about how they carved out their independence, how they cared deeply about each other, and how they learned to harness and face the difficulties of life.

During the high school graduation ceremony, co-valedictorian Madeline Yarkin put it all perfectly, describing what she’d learned from the pre-race jitters that accompany every runner during a cross country or track meet:

“This consistent feeling … before races led me to do a simple equation in my head: If races equal stress, then no races must equal no stress,” Yarkin said. “But the equation didn’t add up, because … races don’t create stress, they channel it. And by doing so, they prevent it from seeping into other aspects of your life.”

Shying away from the trials of life won’t save us from stress and heartache; it will only prolong the unpleasant feelings. We’ll solve Vashon’s many needs — from healthcare, to ferry service, to providing a quality education for our kids — the same way we run a race.

Take one step, then another, and then another.

It’s our responsibility, as parents, grandparents, and community members to show island youth how to face life’s hard stuff, and stride forward and fix it as best we can. There is much that needs to be fixed out there in the world. Our kids already know that perhaps even better than we do.

So we salute our graduating VHS seniors and wish them good fortune as they explore their newfound freedoms, on- or off-island. It’s exciting to read about their plans, in our annual graduation supplement tucked inside this week’s Beachcomber, and dream about all the possibilities — college, trade school, military service, gap years, or settling down to that first “real” job. Their lives as adults are just beginning.

We also salute all the extraordinarily dedicated teachers and community heroes who have done so much to help prepare these kids to, well, not be kids anymore, but instead to be self-governing adults, making their own decisions and charting their paths forward in good times and bad.

It would be a cliché to urge them to “follow their passion.” That makes it sound like all high fives and professional and personal bliss, all the time, and adult life isn’t like that. But with luck, they’ll be able to follow their struggles; that is, to work hard and long and with great difficulty, but also with great love, doing something they care deeply about.

So that’s what we truly wish for them in their future endeavors: a beautiful struggle, doing work, and nurturing relationships that — like those cross country and track races — are worth the incredible effort of doing so.

We hope as well that they will find lots of joy along the way, and that they share that joy with everyone else who is fortunate enough to come into their orbits.

But wait: they’ve already done that. What a joy it has been to watch these island kids grow up — to see them dance and sing on local stages, to witness their grit and determination on our sports fields, to see them play in our parks and achieve in our classrooms.

Bravo, Class of 2024, and Bon Voyage. You got this.