Turning the tassel on 2013

Some 292 Bremerton High School students toss their caps into the air during the school’s 35th commencement ceremony. This year’s class had the highest graduation rate in the school’s history. - Photo by Kevan Moore
Some 292 Bremerton High School students toss their caps into the air during the school’s 35th commencement ceremony. This year’s class had the highest graduation rate in the school’s history.
— image credit: Photo by Kevan Moore

More than 1,000 students from Silverdale and Bremerton high schools walked in graduation ceremonies at the Kitsap Fairgrounds and Bremerton’s Memorial Stadium this past weekend.

While graduation ceremonies usually follow a relatively standard process, each school and each graduating class added its own personality and its own quirks.

Here are highlights from each of the four ceremonies:

Bremerton High School

Bremerton High School’s 35th commencement featured 292 graduates and a completely packed Memorial Stadium.

Principal John Polm, Jr., took a few minutes during the ceremony to praise the Class of 2013.

“I want to leave you with a few thoughts about the legacy you have left that has really transformed Bremerton High School into the high-achieving school that it is today,” he told the graduates. “One, is the graduation rate is much higher than it used to be. Ten years ago, we were graduating six out of ten students; now it is eight out of ten and we’re above the state average by five to ten percent per year. Nice job.

Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent also spoke briefly to the graduates and celebrated the school’s highest graduation rate since 1973.

“You set a new trend 40 years in the making,” she said. “I can’t tell you how proud this school district and this school and this city is of your accomplishments.”

Polm also pointed out that Bremerton High School is considered an exemplary school by the state’s Board of Education and is also home to a STEM Lighthouse school. He also noted strong athletic and music performances in statewide competitions. He talked about relationships being more important than anything else and called on graduates to keep positive, stay focused and be nice to others.

The graduates selected choir teacher Cassie Gillis, who spent 35 years teaching in the district and is retiring this year, as their keynote speaker. Gillis spoke about the importance of music in all of our lives and sang a song as an offering of her eternal thanks.

Valedictorian Benjamin Merrill spoke about the strong bonds that the graduates share moving forward.

Whatever path each of us chooses, we cannot forget that we all began in the same place,” he said. “We have laughed, cried, worked, we have traveled, we have volunteered and we have shared all of these experiences with the friends we’ve gained along the way … We are a widely diverse group, but we will always have one thing in common. We will always be the Knights of 2013.”

Student speaker Taliyah Davie summed up the evening and offered a send-off to her classmates.

“I am honored to say, seniors of 2013, let’s start the beginning of our futures,” Davie said. “Let’s talk that talk and rock that walk down victory lane.”

Klahowya Secondary

Some 169 students from Klahowya showed up at the Kitsap Fairgrounds for the class of 2013’s commencement ceremony.

Though small in numbers compared to Central Kitsap and Olympic high schools, Klahowya’s graduating class is filled with high-achieving students. Students from Klahowya’s graduating class received $3,562,743 in scholarship offers.

Seniors at Klahowya, who gathered in the Kitsap Fairgrounds Pavilion on Thursday, were the first from the Central Kitsap School District to graduate.

Class salutatorian Alyson Kreifels gave a stirring speech toward the beginning of the ceremony.

Partway through her speech she paused and asked the sign language interpreter if she might sign a portion of the speech herself. During that portion she thanked several hearing-impaired students in the crowd.

Valedictorian Sally Fletcher gave a speech of her own, drawing laugh after laugh from the graduates and audience. Fletcher talked about what it was like having her mother work in the counseling office at school.

One time, she said, her mother approached her and said she needed to talk to her about some problems she was having at school. That problem, it turned out, was cutting in the pizza line.

So Fletcher told graduates — remember the lessons of Klahowya, don’t cut in the pizza line of life.

Olympic High School

Olympic High School’s commencement ceremony featured 298 graduates at the Fairgrounds Pavilion just across the street from the school’s campus.

Principal Bob Barnes, who announced his retirement at the close of this school year, spoke at the opening of the ceremony. For Barnes, as well as the class of 2013, this was his final year at Olympic High School.

Unlike the graduates, however, Barnes has been with Olympic for more than a decade, and with the Central Kitsap School District for more than 30 years.

During her speech, Associated Student Body President Chloe Kent congratulated Barnes on his retirement and thanked him for his service.

On a less serious note, Kent told her fellow graduates that “besides learning how to use a toilet,” commencement was the first real achievement in their lives. To close she addressed graduates with a lyric from a song by the rapper Drake: “You da, you da best.”

Perhaps the highlight of the night, however, was when Olympic Vice Principal Roxanne Thayer rolled onto the stage in a wheelchair with a boot cast on her leg.

Thayer announced the citizenship and outstanding student awards, calling to the stage several surprised students for recognition and a memorable hug.

Central Kitsap High School

The largest graduating class in Central Kitsap was also the last to walk. Central Kitsap High School’s class of 2013 held its commencement ceremony Saturday night, as nearly 400 students walked across the stage at the pavilion.

CK’s graduating class featured an impressive number of high-achieving students — the class of 2013 had two valedictorians, Melissa Khuat and Nick Anderson, and seven salutatorians.

Those seven salutatorians gave one of the opening speeches for the ceremony Saturday, alternating portions of the speech between each of the seven students.

In their speech, the salutatorians compared the Cougar class of 2013 to superheroes. Detailing each year at CK as though it were a part of the plot progression of a comic book or superhero movie, the speakers told graduates they are launching out into the world to make it a better place.

Continuing on a science fiction track, class speaker Savannah Stoehr decided on a Star Trek theme for her own address.

Apparently the long-lived science fiction franchise is prospering among a new generation with the arrival of two new feature films in the last few years.

In a lengthy metaphor, Stoehr compared her class to students at Star Fleet Academy, each with his or her own specialization and skill set. Like those fictitious fleet academy students receiving their commission as Star Fleet officers, Central Kitsap graduates will go out and face any number of challenges and adventures.

Whether graduates from the class of 2013 follow traditional career paths or go where no one has gone before, we hope they do so boldly.


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