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Bayview celebrates its largest graduating class ever

Ashley Aries adjusts the hair beneath her graduation cap just before the start of the graduation ceremony Thursday at Bayview Community Hall. - Brian Kelly / The Record
Ashley Aries adjusts the hair beneath her graduation cap just before the start of the graduation ceremony Thursday at Bayview Community Hall.
— image credit: Brian Kelly / The Record

The joint was jumping in Bayview on Thursday as 20 Bayview School seniors were handed their high school diplomas in a colorful swirl of whoops, enthusiasm and marimba music.

“It’s like a total-immersion experience,” said South Whidbey School District Superintendent Fred McCarthy. “There’s a lot of energy here today.”

Or as former Bayview director Scott Mauk, now assistant principal at South Whidbey Elementary School, put it: “It’s great to be back in the land of the rainbow graduates.”

More than 300 friends, family members, teachers, students, school board members and other well-wishers packed venerable Bayview Community Hall to salute the largest graduating class in the school’s 15-year history.

Soggy late-spring weather forced the traditional outdoor celebration inside, but in no way dampened the mood.

“We’re overjoyed with happiness for them,” school director David Pfeiffer said of the graduates, 12 young women and eight young men dressed in caps and gowns of several different colors. “This is a major accomplishment.”

The school, established in 1995 in historic Bayview School, offers another path for students with more than their share of bumps in the road. It provides course work in grades nine through 12, but allows students six years to complete it.

The emphasis is on creativity and individual expression in an atmosphere

of togetherness and one-on-one encouragement.

“It’s my home,” said graduate Christina Jensen, who navigated for six years through a series of personal obstacles. “Bayview can do anything for anyone as long as it exists.”

Graduating along with Jensen were Ashley Aries, Thomas Carmack, Jesse Dale, Christopher Daniels, Mariah Despain, Alexandra Firth, Illana Gahagan, Shalena Glanzer, Trevor Hein, Mahriah Hill, Kelsey Matzen, Vincent Messina, Tommy Morgen Burke, Heather Nielsen, Alixuandrea Poli, Rachel Soto, Daniel Torget, Daniel Volz and Mackenzie Warwick.

More than one worked up to the last minute to complete their graduation requirements, according to staff members who shared anecdotes, tales of perseverance and expressions of warmth and encouragement.

“She’s the perfect Bayview student,” teacher Charlene Ray said of Dale. “There’s more talent in her little finger than most of us have in a lifetime.”

Despain was the first in her family to graduate from high school. “She has great inner strength,” Ray said. “When she has a dream, she goes for it.”

Two of the graduates, Messina and Volz, are fathers of young children. Volz wrote in his school journal, “I wanted everything to work for my son.”

Some $4,250 in scholarships were given to the graduates, $3,250 to Nielson.

“Holy ----!” she said into the open microphone when she saw the scholarship from Tara Properties-Caldwell Banker. “They gave me $1,250 to go to college!”

“What Heather really said was ‘Holy cow!,’” Pfeiffer explained later with a chuckle.

Nielsen also was awarded $500 from Windemere Real Estate and $1,000 from the Baby Island-Saratoga Club. She also received the Kiwanis’ first $500 Cami Love Scholarship in honor of the 2009 Bayview graduate who died in a drive-by shooting in Tacoma this past year.

Poli also received $500 from Kiwanis, and Dale $500 from Goosefoot. Poli also was awarded the school district’s Career Technical Education prize.

As a bonus again this year, Goosefoot director Debi Torget gave each graduate a Swiss Army knife and a roll of duct tape.

“They’ll get you through anything life throws at you,” she said.

The three-hour ceremony ended with each graduate receiving a diploma from school board chairwoman Leigh Anderson, followed by hugs all around, caps tossed into the air, congratulations from well-wishers and refreshments.

“Bayview changed my life,” an exuberant Hein said.

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