The 118 graduates from South Whidbey High School could be identified by all the things they weren’t.
The class of 2013 wasn’t the return to the state championship class. It wasn’t the class that killed the senior parade through Langley. It wasn’t the class that had prom off the island.
It was the classy class, at least in the faculty choice student speaker’s opinion. The class of 2013 was also the year of leaders.
“We’re the classy class,” said Kyle Simchuk, the school’s ASB president.
“We’re the problem solvers, or we’re going to be the problem solvers.”
Plenty of problems await the Falcon graduates. College courses lay ahead for many of them, trade schools for others. Some of them will take trips to Europe, Africa or South America, uncertain when they’ll return to the states. For those students that venture overseas, one of the school’s two valedictorians had advice for any would-be globetrotters.
“Don’t use ‘YOLO’ (you only live once), an uneducated version of carpe diem for those not in the loop, as a reason to get a tattoo from a street vendor in Tijuana,” said Kellen Field, who graduated with a 4.0 grade point average.
Graduation was a smooth ceremony, other than a rocky, emotional beginning for the school’s principal, John Patton. In the auxiliary gym, a waiting and staging room for the graduates, Patton lined them up in order along the perimeter of the court. He told them it was time and to remember their cues. Fighting his emotions, he put the megaphone down and uttered, “I hate this part.”
The students rallied around their faculty leader. One yelled, “We love you, Patton.”
Encouraged, he responded in kind. “I love you guys.”
Once in the main gym packed with family, friends and other supporters, Patton turned to humor in his address to the graduates. Turning into a financial advisor, he cautioned against writing checks because they don’t manifest money if there’s none in the account and signing up for a credit card just because it comes with a free T-shirt.
“You’ve passed the HSPE, EOCs, SAT and ACT,” he said. “But can you cook rice without it sticking to the pan?”
“When you’re on the mainland, also called the United States, that latch on the door is called a lock. Lock your doors.”
A few student performances punctuated the ceremony, first from the school’s jazz band, featuring five seniors in their caps and gowns. Josh Bishop performed “Climb” alone on guitar and vocals. Later, Bishop returned with the help of the jazz band seniors Connor McCauley, Zoe Hensler, Lucy Rock and Sylvie Kaul-Anderson, as well as Sam Turpin and Anna Hood and performed “93 Million Miles.” Its refrain echoed the common sentiment throughout the commencement that South Whidbey is their home, “No matter where you go, you can always come back home,” sang Turpin.
The senior class president parroted that notion at the end of the ceremony.
“This will always be the place we call home,” said Elliauna Madsen.
Student choice speaker Lennox Bishop thanked her peers for being themselves and allowing her to be herself.
Simchuk told his classmates to remind themselves that many have had similar scholastic experiences until this point. He asked the graduates who have been enrolled in South Whidbey schools since kindergarten to stand. Most of them stood.
“Our school has character, our building has character, our staff has character and the class of 2013 has character,” Simchuk said. “And that’s because we’re all a little weird.”
“My friends going to school ‘overtown’ will never know what it’s like to go here. They’ll never know what it’s like to have a driver’s ed teacher who not only taught your mother, but her parents as well. They’ll never know what it’s like to have a teacher who taught for 39 years. They’ll never know the joy of a pickle sandwich on half days.”