Class of 2021 | A year like no other prepared PTHS graduates for the world

Posted 6/18/21

From balloons and paper lanterns to handmade signs and homemade T-shirts, Port Townsend High School’s graduation ceremony Friday was a kaleidoscope of red, white, and black.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

E-mail
Password
Log in

Class of 2021 | A year like no other prepared PTHS graduates for the world

Graduates toss their caps into the setting sun and watch them fall back to earth like red and white raindrops.
Graduates toss their caps into the setting sun and watch them fall back to earth like red and white raindrops.
Leader photo by Alli Patton
Posted

From balloons and paper lanterns to handmade signs and homemade T-shirts, Port Townsend High School’s graduation ceremony Friday was a kaleidoscope of red, white, and black.

The Class of 2021 was corralled into Jefferson County Memorial Athletic Field with a thunderous applause. The Redhawk seniors wore bright smiles under their decorated mortar boards, and some wore even brighter shoes that peekaboo-ed from the bottom of their robes.

A small class with big achievements, the 87 graduates were weighed down with stoles, tassels, cords, and sashes of every kind.

The ceremony opened with words from Principal Carrie Ehrhardt, who expressed her love for the graduating class along with her gratitude to those who made the event possible after a difficult year.

Ehrhardt gave a special thanks to COVID rapid tests for they provided some semblance of normalcy, allowing her students to walk hand-in-hand and sit side-by-side, mask-free for the night.

“My regret is that we were unable to give you a senior homecoming because I know how much seniors look forward to that,” Ehrhardt said.

Dean of Students Patrick Gaffney chimed in and said they could, in fact, have a homecoming right then and there.

“We’ve been pulling off the impossible all year, right?” Gaffney asked.

With that, a mass of faux football players – school faculty swallowed by Redhawks jerseys – stormed the field to place homecoming royalty sashes on every senior.

The beginning notes of “I Gotta Feeling” by The Black Eyed Peas began to play, and the seniors left their seats to rush the stage for an impromptu homecoming re-do. They all danced until the music stopped and it was time to get down to business.

Finn O’Donnell and Sorina Johnston greeted the Class of 2021 and welcomed families and guests. The duo sparked laughter among the crowd, quoting Taylor Swift lyrics and calling out their classmates.

The two also spoke insightfully on the legacies the class will be leaving behind, “planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.”

“You are the class that elevated student voice and I hope for the rest of your lives you never forget what that feels like,” said Interim Superintendent Sandy Gessner Crabtree.

Following the awarding of the Andy Palmer Scholarship to Gina Brown, the school’s valedictorian and salutatorian gathered on the stage for their speeches.

“We started out our senior year from our desks, beds, or hot tubs, in the midst of, as some say, the most important election cycle ever,” said valedictorian Melanie Bakin. “We all watched in awe as Amanda Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet, delivered a message for now, a message for eternity.”

To her classmates, she quoted the poet’s words at the January inauguration:

“If nothing else, say this is true:

That even as we grieved, we grew

That even as we hurt, we hoped

That even as we tired, we tried.”

Salutatorian Stella Jorgensen echoed a similar sentiment, following soon after with her words: “The Class of ’21 has faced an obvious additional challenge presented by COVID-19, and for us, the immediate future has changed on a near daily basis during an already significant time in our lives.

“However, as I thought of the future this class will live, COVID-related challenges were not at the front of my mind,” she added

“Hope” was a word repeated again and again throughout the night – a hope for the future, a hope for each other.

“There is not hope in the sense that one day things will work themselves out, everything will be OK, other people will solve those big problems,” Jorgensen said. 

“That kind of hope is no longer realistic, and perhaps it never was. I think the Class of ’21 may struggle with the word ‘hope,’ because it is so light, so riddled with uncertainty. It is easy to attach hope to the actions of others, but difficult to feel hopeful given the actions of the world.”

“But optimism is necessary. Without optimism, the revolution slows, and the wheels of progress stop turning, and this cannot happen. Although it may be easiest to throw up our hands, we don’t have time to let pessimism shake us,” she said. “Simply put, we have too much work to do.”

After a year that felt hopeless, every speech championed for a similar fierce optimism.

Special student performances were sprinkled in between words from faculty-selected speaker River Kisler and class-selected speaker Emillia Nunn.

Max Doray played the song “My Foolish Heart” solo on the keyboard and then joined Sorina Johnston, Cameron Rowland, and Nylah Garling for a song written in collaboration and entitled, “Highway to the Rest of our Lives.”

In the midst of all the pomp and circumstance, student recognitions, MVP announcements, and local scholarship recipients were also called out as students stood and waved with the calling of their names.

School board members took their turns when it came to the awarding of the diplomas, shaking hands and smiling for the cameras. After each giving the Redhawk mascot a high-five, students bounded across the stage to get what they came for – that little bound book that signals the end.

They stepped off the stage with a look of equal parts excitement and fear. 

In no time at all, the freshly graduated Class of 2021 was presented to the crowd. Graduates tossed their caps into the setting sun and watched them fall back to earth like red and white raindrops. With the final words of the alma mater sung, the high school seniors entered into the world, leaving behind a legacy but going forth with a fierce optimism.

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here