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Graduations galore this week

Ryan Schutt, left, and Bryan Anderson  hugged after the King’s West graduation at the Crossroads Neighborhood Church. - Photo by Jesse Beals/file photo
Ryan Schutt, left, and Bryan Anderson hugged after the King’s West graduation at the Crossroads Neighborhood Church.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals/file photo

Hundreds of students in Bremerton are reaching milestones in their academic careers this week with King’s West School, Olympic College and Renaissance High School commencement ceremonies featured here. Look for coverage of the Bremerton High School graduation, which took place Friday night, in the June 24 edition of the Bremerton Patriot.

King’s West

At a school known for bringing in international students from as far and wide as South Korea and England, it should come as no surprise this year’s graduates are spreading as far and wide as Pennsylvania, Canada and Switzerland.

Callum Heap, originally from England, is the King’s West grad who will make the longest journey for his tertiary education, heading off to Les Roches School of Hotel Management in Switzerland.

“It’s the best hotel management school in the world. I wanted to go to it since eighth grade,” Heap said. “I love it. I’ll be a lot closer to a lot of family, which is really nice.”

Valedictorian Caitlin Kramer, who will attend the University of Pennsylvania, may be ready for the Ivy League but won’t forget King’s West.

“In the end, we take with us ... more than a few good grades on tests,” Kramer said.

All 40 King’s West graduates will attend college in the fall.

“This group of people we have before (us), we’re letting them go with a great deal of confidence,” said principal Nick Sweeney. “They will make an impact on our world.”

Sweeney has seen a number of classes go out into the world through the years but this group has some standout features.

“They are a little more adept academically. They earned over $1 million of scholarships altogether. For a class of 40, that’s quite a bit,” he said. “They might be one of our best groups ever, spiritually.”

That fact is perhaps the greatest thing to see for Christian educators like Sweeney and his staff at a ceremony performed at Crossroads Neighborhood Church.

Academic counselor and athletic director Emil Heinze had plenty of praise, and some good-natured ribbing, for the class as well.

“They were dedicated, talented, and humorous and included a few who acted irritatingly at times like high-school students,” Heinze said. “They had their moments.”

Olympic College

Unlike most of the graduations taking place in the county these days, this one at the Kitsap Pavilion marked not an end, but a midpoint for most dressed in cap and gown.

The conferring of more than 1,000 associate’s degrees meant to the majority of Olympic College graduates Sunday that they are at the halfway point.

OC President David Mitchell encouraged the 982 grads (24 of whom earned two degrees) to think of their accomplish ment, not as an ending, but as “a launching pad.”

“I wish you the best of luck as your education takes you out of Olympic College and into the labs and ... (classrooms) of our four-year universities,” Mitchell said in his address to the Class of 2006. “Education does pay off indeed, for the individual and the community.”

If that point was not clear to graduates, and the friends and family gathered to support them, on its face, Mitchell had the numbers to back it up.

A study done on the college’s behalf, he said, showed OC grads would, on average, earn $4,000 more annually than peers who did not attain an associate’s degree.

The diverse group of students, aged 17 to 68, assembled to be honored with a diploma are not likely to take such knowledge for granted. The majority will go on to pursue bachelor’s degrees from state institutions, with some remaining on the OC campus to be part of extension programs offered by Western Washington and Old Dominion universities.

Janet Stump, class speaker, offered that her time at OC was not as awkward as she feared it may have been going in, having a few years on the “traditional” college student.

“I made friends,” Stump said. “Age was no barrier to these students.”

Stump thrived, beyond what she even dreamed.

“If you’d have told me two years ago, I’d be giving (this) speech, I’d have laughed and laughed.”

Maureen Eaquinta, another non-traditional student, the mother of three children who holds down a full-time job in addition to her studies, wore a wealth of stoles and sashes to honor her achievements.

She, too, succeeded beyond what she could have imagined in her years at the college.

“It’s an honor and it’s amazing,” Eaquinta said, having earned three degrees in four years at the school. She will stay close to home and begin work on a bachelor’s degree in occupational and technical studies through Old Dominion this fall.

“I hadn’t realized ... what it all means,” said Amy Powell, who will be off to study journalism at Western Washington University in Bellingham in the fall. “They put it in context and you realize it really is a big deal.”

A big deal, not only for students themselves but for each and every grad’s personal support staff.

“The main thing for me is to give back to the families,” said Kelly Gulberg, soon to be a youth and family ministries major at Trinity Lutheran College in Issaquah. “To say thank you because they supported us.”

Renaissance High School

“You’ll find these students are all unique and there is no typical Renaissance student,” said principal Stuart Crisman as he gave a sendoff to 16 graduates of the Bremerton School District alternative high school Wednesday night at the district administration building.

Crisman went on to explain some RHS students came because they wanted a smaller environment than Bremerton or South Kitsap high schools offered, others had no parents to support them, were on their own and needed flexibility in their schedules to accommodate work and others sought more of a challenge in an arts-centered environment.

“They’re all here because they chose Renaissance because they felt it better fit their educational needs,” Crisman said. “They’ve shown tenacity and perseverance to reach that goal of graduating.”

“The people I see every day at Renaissance motivated me ... all in their own ways,” said graduate David Overly. “The flexibility at Renaissance helped me get through.”

Sarah Langhjelm wanted to thank family and friends who supported her efforts toward a diploma through thick and thin.

“My being here was a long journey with a lot of ups and downs,” Langhjelm said.

Willy Von Essen was appreciative of what Renaissance provided her son, James, in working toward graduation.

“They stuck with him and helped him through all the years he was here,” she said. “It hasn’t been easy.”

School board vice president Vicki Collins gave the guest speech to the class and let them know she was proud of their achievements.

“The first word that comes to mind in serving (Renaissance) is ‘overcomes’,” Collins said. “Class of 2006, you are overcomers. You are survivors. Many came through what you have gone through and haven’t made it. You’ve made it. You do not accept defeat.”

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