Port Townsend seniors share memories, press for change at graduation ceremony | Class of 2022

Posted 6/16/22

Whether it’s the good, the bad, or the ugly, Port Townsend High School’s Class of 2022 has seen it all. Advancing past the myriad of challenges presented to them over the past four years, …

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Port Townsend seniors share memories, press for change at graduation ceremony | Class of 2022


Whether it’s the good, the bad, or the ugly, Port Townsend High School’s Class of 2022 has seen it all. Advancing past the myriad of challenges presented to them over the past four years, the Red Hawk seniors rose to the challenge and passed with flying colors.

Hundreds of families, friends, and supporters showed up to Fort Worden’s McCurdy Pavilion Friday evening to show their love for the Class of 2022.

With a massive 2022 sign illuminating behind them, Port Townsend’s 82 seniors graced the stage full of glee.

Associated Student Body President Jerome Reaux Jr. started off the merriment with a greeting speech to his peers and graduation attendees.

“I want to thank my fellow seniors for having my back through this time,” Reaux said. “We earned our right to be on this stage.”

He thanked his peers, teachers, staff, and attendees for their constant support through it all, concluding with, “let’s give the crowd what they came to see; a jolly good damn show.”

Next, the class’ three valedictorians spoke, starting with Maya Dow.

Dow called back to the many memories she made through the high school and Port Townsend, noting that she’d been attending the school’s high school graduations since the age of 5.

“This moment is special and this town is special,” Dow said.

“Here, right now, instead of names on a list of several hundred graduates, tonight we are each recognized as people who have ambitions and unique traits. Here, in Port Townsend, we have always been celebrated as individuals.”

Referencing multiple inside jokes and laughing along with her peers, Dow concluded with: “Whether we leave or stay, this community is our home.”

Tri-valedictorian Lochlan Krupa discussed finding friendship and belonging while he was a student, and encouraged the Class of 2022 to seek friends and colleagues who welcome them as their true selves without reticence for fear of judgement, expanding on that point through a thought-provoking journey he took before high school.

“The summer before my freshman year, I embarked on a two-week backpacking trip in the Olympic Mountains,” Krupa said.

Hiking with his fellow teens, Krupa encountered a friend with the alias “Ace,” and he discussed the deep wisdom gained from a conversation with the friend.

“Ace said that we all wear a suit of armor. We shield our vulnerabilities, our true selves, for the fear of the swords and arrows of others’ judgements, assumptions, and words. Yet during our backpacking trip, every boy began to shed pieces of his armor; a shoulder pad here, a greave there, eventually everyone’s helmet came off,” he said.

“It is these moments, moments of openness, of realness, that we live for,” he said.

Krupa concluded with a message to his peers.

“Our armor may be safe, but it is also really heavy, and dark. So I am speaking directly to you, Class of 2022, when I say that as we become the politicians, artists, mechanics, engineers, scientists, disc golf champions, and professional Clash Royale players that we are meant to be, we should remember to seek the people and places that allow us to be seen,” he said.

“That allows us to remove our breastplate without fear, to feel the sun on our bare skin. For it is through authenticity that we foster connection, and through connection that we foster joy.”

Fellow valedictorian Elio Wentzel started with a political statement on gun violence in schools and violence against members of the LGBTQ+ community.

“In the United States, school isn’t always a safe place to be,” Wentzel said.

“There have been at least 96 incidents of gunfire on school grounds so far this year, and I was worried that number would increase between the writing of this speech and graduation.

“An estimated 82 percent of transgender people have considered suicide, with the highest rates among trans youth, and still there are countless new anti-LGBTQ+ bills being created for the sole purpose of making it more difficult to be yourself.

“I don’t think I’m being blindly optimistic when I say that our generation will be the one to create tangible solutions to these systemic issues,” Wentzel said to applause.

Wentzel praised the graduating class for constant support and love.

“The most important thing I learned in school, aside from the care and keeping of bonsai trees, is that humanity will never settle,” Wentzel said. “Activists in our own right, we have stood up for ourselves, our peers, and the world we are inheriting through day-to-day interactions and even legislation. Thank you to everyone that taught me the importance of a quick peer check-in on challenging days, and for making this town the haven that it is.”

Co-salutatorian Hailey Gallagher stressed life is not linear, using her experiences with horse training to make her point.

“A full life isn’t a clear path. It isn’t just a series of successes or failures that can be characterized as good or bad,” Gallagher said. “Life is a confusing tangle of learning experiences that aren’t good or bad.”

She then praised her colleagues, and added: “The Class of 2022 is a group of strong, resilient, passionate people with tangled paths of learning experiences ahead of us.”

As we head off on our non-linear journeys, I can’t wait to see what incredible lessons we learn from our future teachers in life and how we apply that knowledge to create a happier, safer, more accepting, and more sustainable world.”

Co-salutatorian Lia Poore underscored the importance of getting back to the basics through her formative experiences as a gymnast.

“As I grew up in the sport, I learned countless lessons. One of the most impactful was the importance of foundation,” Poore said.

Referencing world-famous Olympic gymnast Simone Biles’ battle with the “twisties,” a disorienting experience when an athlete’s mind and body are out of sync, Poore noted the importance of foundation and remastering the basics.

“Even the most influential and accomplished people, like Simone, face unexpected challenges. No matter the scale or situation, setbacks are inevitable, but the way we tackle these challenges is what matters the most,” she said.

“So don’t be afraid to go back to the basics, because when faced with opposition, the best thing to do might be to remember what pushes you to keep going or to reflect on the qualities that make you who you are.”

Graduate Julia Neville, the faculty speaker, expressed the importance and capability for joy and healing that laughter can bring.

“I have always loved and believed in the transformative power of humor, in the way a joke can bring about crinkled eyes and beaming smiles,” Neville said. “I’ve seen firsthand that laughter not only changes one’s mood, but their life and the lives of those around them.”

“At such a pivotal point in our lives, graduates, as we feel ambivalent about our futures and reflect on the nearly insurmountable challenges we have to overcome, we need some sort of pick-me-up, and that is laughter,” she added.

Port Townsend High teacher Ben Dow delivered a poem to the audience, filled with references to the many memories made with the seniors throughout their four years together.

Class speaker Kenneth Nichol rounded off the speeches with a humorous and heartfelt recounting of the highs and lows of school.

“Being subjected to the pandemic gave us qualities that we will keep for the rest of our lives. We grew to be resilient, disciplined, and adaptable, and we gained the experience to face sudden adversities at a young age,” Nichol said.

“Life threw us some lemons these past few years, but from that we made some damn good lemonade.”

Nichol said each senior faced diverging roads after high school to follow their dreams.

“Change can feel bittersweet, but despite the amazing support we’ve received and great memories made, it probably feels time to say goodbye to our beautiful cement couch and the mysterious brown ceiling stains that make Port Townsend High, Port Townsend High,” he said, joking.

“No matter how far our roads lead us apart, we will always be connected; we will always be the Port Townsend Class of 2022.”

Following the student speeches, string musicians Maya Dow, Antonio Powers, Lochlan Krupa, Tusker Behrenfeld, and Lia Poore delivered a quintet performance of “Ani Ma’amin” by John Leautt.

Additionally, Behrenfeld performed an exhilarating violin solo of “Appalachian Waltz” by Mark O’Connor, Yo-Yo Ma, and Edgar Meyer.

With that, the Port Townsend Class of 2022 crossed the stage, celebrating as they anticipate where life will take them next.