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Class of 2002 graduates

"The beginning is the most important part of the work," the Greek philosopher Plato once said.

If they did not already know this bit of wisdom from the classical past, the South Whidbey High School Class of 2002 discovered its meaning on Saturday afternoon during the school's graduation ceremony.

On a near-perfect day on Waterman Field, the students graduated with bright outlooks for the future and took time to reflect on their years together and with the community.

High school principal Mike Johnson and South Whidbey Superintendent Martin Laster gave the graduates their first nudge out into the world, saying that they believe this class will make good use of its potential.

"I will not offer advice, but instead request an indulgence," Laster said in his opening speech. "May your days be blessed."

Faculty choice speaker Natalie Knight and class choice speaker Patrick Moote recognized the community's consistent support and positive influence throughout their academic careers, and remembered time spent with friends.

Three class valedictorians, Patrick Boyle, Tim Gabelein and Hannah Shafaat, each spoke at the event, giving their own advice to their classmates.

Boyle's message called on the graduates to think beyond themselves, while Gabelein's speech was about remembering friends.

"The neat thing about the Island is people always come back to remember," Gabelein said. "We have all accomplished something great just by being here today."

Also reminding the graduates to remember the good times, Shafaat asked her classmates to recognize their individual relationships, and to take advantage of their opportunities.

"I think we've become close as individuals," she said. "We will remember our individual relationships with others. This past is over, and we should not be sad of it. We are in the present. Make the most of it."

Laster, school board president Ray Gabelein, school board member Helen Price-Johnson and Principal Johnson handed out diplomas. The high school's vocal ensemble and Will Ryan gave the class a musical sendoff with "A Song of Farewell" and Ryan's composition "Farewell, Goodbye."

Senior class president Allison Norris closed the day with a few words about her memories of coming to the school as a freshman and leaving as a graduate.

"All fun, and then it's done," she said. "But I have a feeling it is only the beginning."

Post ceremony, the graduates, along with family and friends, adjourned to the high school commons for a reception prepared by the parents of junior class students. There, the class of 2002 took time to reflect on a high school career well done.

"I am thankful," said graduate Erik Rainey. "I've enjoyed my time here, but I am also excited to leave. It has been a good time and I have had fun."

Joe Candelario had a lot of thoughts on his mind after receiving his diploma. For him, graduation is the start of big changes.

"It's a special transition time in your life," he said.

Later that evening, graduates left the island for the annual Grad Night party. Chaperoned by a number of parents, more than 100 class members left on the 9:30 p.m. ferry for what would be an all-night and all-morning event. The graduates traveled by bus to their first destination, the Bay Pavilion on the Seattle waterfront.

There, the grads played games, grabbed for money in a cash cube, danced, ate, sumo-wrestled, risked dizzyness on a gyrotron and were entranced by professional hypnotist. Later, there was more dancing and food, and casino-style gambling, through the early-morning hours aboard a boat in Lake Union.

Grad Night chairwoman Marva Fox said it took an entire year U one fourth of the graduates' high school careers U to arrange the all-night party.

"The grads were all exhausted afterwards," she said. "Many of them fell asleep toward the end."

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