May 1 saw Sequim High School host its first-ever Decision Day event, aimed at celebrating the decisions of seniors in the Class of 2019 to go on to colleges, technical schools or the military.
Decision Day started as an event put together by former first lady Michelle Obama in 2014 as part of the Reach Higher initiative. It’s aimed at not only celebrating the choices seniors have made for going to college or elsewhere, but to inspire other students as well as they work toward making those same decisions themselves in the coming years.
Over 100 students were involved in the parade through the Sequim High School gym in front of the rest of the school and numerous parents, with local colleges represented like the University of Washington, Washington State University, Gonzaga University, Western Washington University, Central Washington University and Eastern Washington University, as well as smaller local schools like Peninsula College — which welcomed 46 new students from Sequim High — Green River College, Pacific Lutheran University, The Evergreen State College, and many more.
In all, 33 colleges from around the country were represented during the groundbreaking assembly, with some students going as far out as Southern Virginia University, Oklahoma Panhandle University, and the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Several students in the march also were representing the branches of the military they are joining after graduation, including the Navy, the Marine Corps and the National Guard.
But while the focus of the event was on the seniors and celebrating the big next steps in their lives, Sequim High staff also hoped that underclassmen would get something out of Decision Day as well.
“We’re very proud of our graduating seniors,” Sequim High principal Shawn Langston said before the assembly. “We’re excited to acknowledge the important decisions that they’ve made. We’re also excited for our underclassmen, who we hope will get energized by this and start to ‘time travel’ and see where they’ll be on their Decision Day.”
Mitzi Sanders, Sequim High’s Career, College and Scholarship director, had similar thoughts. “We wanted the underclassmen to start looking ahead, to start looking at this process themselves. We want to put that spark in them to not just be part of Decision Day in the future, but to start thinking about their plans for what comes next.”
Even the seniors involved in Decision Day wanted to make sure their younger peers got something out of the day, with Justin Fearn — who is joining the National Guard after graduation — saying that he wanted underclassmen to “be proud not just of us (the graduating seniors), but of what they can do after us. They need to be part of something they believe in, and that they think is important.”
That kind of message was very in line to what keynote speaker Rashad Norris told students in a an entertaining but sharply aimed speech meant to help open seniors’ eyes before they get to where they’re going after graduation.
“You have to advocate for yourself,” Norris told the assembled students. “Once you’re out of high school, your college professors (and everyone else) are already paid. They’re not going to ask if you need anything. If you need help, if you need something, you need to make your voice heard. You need to go get it, because no one else will. That’s not how (life) works any more.”
Norris also spoke at length about staying committed to yourself and to your goals, telling everyone that “there’s a difference between taking a step back to think things over and finding a new approach, and just saying ‘it’s too hard, I quit.’ It’s too easy to make excuses, and excuses build up to frustration. Then you just stop. You have to stay in it if you’re going to succeed in anything.”
The biggest message that Norris had, though, was that kids need to learn to always be learning, not just in the classroom. Learning about new people, new ideas and new subjects is all well and good, Norris said, but learning about the world around you is just as important, and you need to take what you learn and bring it home with you to give it back to the community.
In all, it was an exciting day for the seniors involved in the Decision Day assembly, who got to show off their pride in what comes next for them, and an inspiring day for the underclassmen in the bleachers.