With a ceremonial toss of their caps, an entire generation of South Whidbey residents entered a new stage of their lives this past weekend.
The Class of 2015, 116 students in all, graduated Saturday to the sound of thunderous applause from hundreds of proud parents, friends and educators during a ceremony at South Whidbey High School.
It was a big day, both for graduates and parents alike.
“We’ve had a kid in this school system since 1984, and we just got done today,” said a beaming Steve Backus, a Clinton resident.
“I am proud of Boone,” he said of his son.
Boone plans to attend Sno-Isle Tech, but his future plans aren’t set. According to Backus, he may yet follow in the footsteps of his father and other family members by choosing a career in chainsaw carving.
Just a few feet away enjoying their own celebration during the bustling reception that followed the graduation ceremony was Mariah Matzen, 18, and her family. Like the Backuses, it was a big moment.
“Huge,” said Leanne Erickson, Matzen’s mother.
Matzen will attend Skagit Valley College and later transfer to Washington State University where she will study to become a veterinarian. She’s already well on her way, recently becoming a certified veterinary assistant.
Matzen called her high school experience unforgettable, being “good and bad.” The best part, she said, was the people she met along the way.
“Being part of a small school, I was really lucky,” she said.
School pride, friendships and gratitude toward teachers were common sentiments among graduates. Class speakers talked about the importance of not only their classmates and their experiences in high school but also the impact teachers and the community had on their education and development as young adults.
Nathaniel Lux, the faculty choice speaker, described himself as a person transformed. Once shy and reserved, he is now a young man who is both able to address a packed gymnasium and face the challenges of tomorrow.
“I don’t know what lies ahead of me after high school, but I do know that I’m ready for it,” Lux Said.
His heartfelt comments earned roaring approval from the crowd with a standing ovation.
In another touching moment, one that brought about a chorus of “ahhs” from the crowd and an admitted tear from Backus, class President Charles Stelling said seniors will travel to Disneyland this week, which is reportedly the “happiest place on earth.” It will be fun, he said, but students don’t need to travel so far to know such a place. All they need to do is look around to realize they’ve been living there all along.
Other teen speakers included class choice speaker Maverick Christensen, and valedictorians Meaghan de Wolf and Isla Dübendorf. Christensen offered inspiration and guidance, telling his classmates “this is not the time to stop moving forward.” de Wolf shared memories and relayed a quote from “the great Michael Scott” of the television comedy series “The Office” — “May your hats fly as high as your dreams;” and Dübendorf delivered her comments in the form of a well crafted and comprehensive poem that addressed her time and experiences in high school.
The graduation ceremony also included performances by the school’s Music in Motion Choir and Jazz Ensemble, and parting comments from school leaders, including Principal John Patton and school district Superintendent Jo Moccia.