Looking back, the date — Friday the 13th, 2020 — seems ominous. In presenting Sequim High School’s Class of 2021 to a throng of family and friends Friday evening, principal Shawn Langston noted it was the last time these graduating seniors had been together. In the 15 months since, these same students found ways to adapt to a pandemic-stricken world to earn their diplomas.
Langston asked the graduates-to-be to consider re-framing their recent past and present with the word “hope.”
“I’m hopeful the Class of 2021 will look back fondly at their time at Sequim High School,” he said.
With graduates in the grandstands and their parents and friends seated on the field — a reversal on the school’s traditional commencement set-up — Sequim interim superintendent Jane Pryne and all five school board members were on hand to bestow diplomas; in the days leading up the commencement ceremony had 187 high school seniors on track to graduate.
This year’s class is heading to various colleges, universities and trade schools with more than $2.6 million in scholarships and awards — more than $330,000 of that from local and regional community groups and organizations.
“We do live in a community that … instills hope in their future,” Langston said Friday.
The crowd heard somber but hopeful messages from each of the class’ six valedictorians — Aidan Braaten, Erik Christiansen, Kensal Coudriet, Melissa Porter, Amanda Weller and Kalli Wiker — as well as staff-selected speaker Maddie Dietzman and class-selected speaker Greta Christianson.
“Don’t ever give up on your dreams … be nice … (and) don’t ever settle for less,” Christianson said, adding, “Don’t be afraid to open up to a person you just met.”
Madalyn Pence was the staff’s choice for this year’s U-Turn award, recognizing a student who has turned their high school path to a more positive one. Based on a bent piece of metal used by motivational speaker Keith Davis that former teacher Bill O’Brien recommended turning into an honor for students who got their prep career on track, this year’s U-Turn award also came with a $1,000 scholarship.
“It’s been amazing watching her grow up,” Langston said of Pence Friday night.
Before overseeing the distribution of diplomas, Pryne offered somber yet hopeful thoughts for the graduating class, encouraging kindness as they take their next steps into the world.
“I like to think of gratitude as an antioxidant for the soul,” she said. “Focus on the right things and allow for hope to flourish and gratitude to grow.”