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Turning of the tassles

It was a time to throw confetti, it was a time for tears. It was a time for celebration, for high-fives and hugs amongst friends. It was a moment to reflect and to remember.

At Bremerton High School’s graduation ceremony on Friday night June 13, 284 seniors walked up to grasp their diplomas and turn over a new page in the book of their lives.

At the ceremony, three students gave speeches and a few more gave musical performances in honor of the momentous day.

“To all my friends, I love you, and we will be friends forever,” said Micaela Thomas to a sea of purple hats and robes on BHS’s Memorial Field. Thomas was chosen to sing a musical piece, “Win.” Her high, fluctuating voice echoed through the stadium as the sun went down.

Principal Chris Thompson gave a speech about luck in life, pegging the fact that the ceremony occurred on Friday the 13th.

“What luck really means is where preparation meets opportunity,” he said. “The U.S. is full of opportunity. Prepare yourselves and you can grab those opportunities.”

He referenced U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell’s life struggles before his rise to prominence, from dealing with racism to fighting in Vietnam.

The next speaker, Mark Mattson, a student, talked about graduation as an intersection, a time when the slate of one’s life is wiped clean.

Nathan Tolliver, Joel Mitchell and Isaac Milos wrote a stirring acoustic melody called “Graduation Song.”

“The friendships we made cannot go away; the people whose lives we have touched; will be remembered by us for all time,” Milos sang.

He sang about graduation as a moment to cherish forever. The chorus asked a question about friendship.

“Class of 2003, will you remember me ... will I have a place in your heart?”

Mayor Cary Bozeman was the community speaker for the evening.

He told the seniors that in the next few years they would face five major choices.

The first is whether or not to go to college.

“There’s no option,” he said. “You have to continue your education.”

Eighteen percent of BHS graduating class plans to attend a four-year university next year. Forty-eight percent will attend two-year community colleges, a share of those at Olympic College.

The second major choice Bozeman posed is whether or not to get married before you are 25. Bozeman said he got married when he was 21 and he thought it was too young. “Give it some time, meet new people, don’t get married too young,” he said.

The third choice Bozeman brought up was how soon to have children. Again, he said that having a kid before you are 25 is too early. “You will have some opportunity to have children,” he said. “Married or not, you are going to have that choice.”

The fourth choice suggested is what job to choose. Bozeman said you must strive and pick a job that you can love, otherwise you will end up spending 40 hours of each week struggling.

Finally, he told the graduates they have a choice in the coming years about what kind of reputation to establish.

“What are people going to say about you as a human being? You’ll make a choice about what people are going to say about you,” he said.

As the ceremony concluded, the graduates filed up the steps of the stadium to the soccer field outside the school. There, parents, friends and relatives congratulated them with hugs and kisses. Students posed for pictures with friends and talked about what they were doing next.

“It’s amazing,” said Brandin Johnston. “It’s everything I’ve planned for in the last 12 years.” Jones plans on taking a full load at Olympic College next year.

“I feel excited,” said Amanda Baask. She was standing amongst the crowd just soaking everything in. “I’m still shocked, it feels really surreal. It has been long, but it has been good.”

Baask is joining the United States Army. She leaves in September for Fort Leonard Wood Missouri.

Like many of the Bremerton High seniors, David Daniels was still mystified that the big moment had actually arrived. He used only one word to describe how the moment felt.

“Awesome.”

Of the high school experience, Daniels can remember both highs and lows.

“As long as you keep trying you’ll make it through,” he said when asked to give advice to students still in high school.

Daniels is starting a job doing grounds maintenance and then will transfer over to the Art Institute in Seattle to study video production. He wandered around like many of the graduates that day, soaking in the last rays of sun, and sharing memories with their friends.

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