Class of 2021 | Quilcene High graduation ceremony ends with circle of friends, memories

Posted 6/18/21

Up, up and away.

Quilcene High’s Class of 2021 came together one last time Saturday. They gathered in a tight circle on the school’s athletic field as a thick crowd of family and …

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Class of 2021 | Quilcene High graduation ceremony ends with circle of friends, memories


Up, up and away.

Quilcene High’s Class of 2021 came together one last time Saturday. They gathered in a tight circle on the school’s athletic field as a thick crowd of family and friends hovered nearby; with commencement’s official final farewells given and every tassel turned.

With a cheer, the graduates pulled off their caps and sent them soaring into the air.

Up, up and away.

An appreciative audience of more than 200 were spread across the school’s football field for the Class of 2021’s graduation ceremony Saturday under a baking sun that had many using the commencement program as a fan.

Twenty-three seniors filled the bleachers as golden 2, 0, 2 and 1 balloons slam-danced above their heads.

It was a stark change from last year’s pandemic graduation, where the families of the graduates were confined to their parked cars to watch commencement.

Class speaker Olivia Benson, who started the program by singing the National Anthem, gave thanks to the Quilcene staff and teachers “who have helped us grow and learn from children to graduates.”

“It is an unbelievable thing to be able to say, ‘We did it.’ We have taken the tests, completed the assignments, and can now branch out and explore all the world has to offer us,” she added.

Benson recalled the whirlwind of the last four years for the graduating seniors, “a long steep hike up a hill of homework, exams, and hormones.”

She said she couldn’t help but feel nostalgic.

“Some of us will miss the grueling homework given to us every single day without fail from Mr. Weller. Some of us will look back and remember how awfully cheesy Mr. Taylor’s white board memes were.

“One thing for sure, we will all miss the bond we have created with each other,” she added.

Class salutatorian McKenzie Smith told her fellow graduates that while one chapter was closing, another was just beginning.

“It is hard to believe that we are finally graduating,” Smith said. “For the longest time it felt like graduation was so far away until it was right upon us.”

Looking back at how they had all changed, she quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson: “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”

“It rings true as we set out on the next phase of our lives. Let us not think of today as an ending, rather our graduation should serve as a launching point,” Smith said.

There’s no single place where the graduates will go, she said. Some will take jobs or learn a trade, or continue on in college or a technical school.

“Let us all use our gifts and time to make the future of our world a better place. As we go out into the world, let us remember the lessons we learned at Quilcene school,” Smith added. “Follow your passion, find joy in the journey.”

History teacher Mark Thompson gave the commencement address, and he reminded the graduates there are some things they have yet to learn.

“Some say it takes a village to raise a child, and maybe that is true, but I would argue there is no substitute for good, solid parenting,” Thompson said.

“And graduates, you will be amazed at how much smarter your parents become in the next five years,” he said. “So listen to them, take their advice, get your adult life started on the right foot.”

Thompson praised the graduates as resilient and courageous.

“Make no mistake about this group up here on stage; there is no quit in any of them,” Thompson said. “Graduates, the future is wide open and bright, and all of us here today have great confidence you will find happiness and success in your life.”

“So now I have the honor of being the last teacher to deliver a lesson to these wonderful students. Now graduates, don’t worry, today’s final lesson has nothing to do about ancient Greeks, Romans or Egyptians, nothing to do with the communist Chinese or Marxism, and it definitely has nothing to do with COVID-19,” he added.

It was, instead, a lesson about life.

“My parting advice to you all is find a way to contribute, follow your passion, stay true to yourself,” Thompson said. “Never follow anyone’s path, unless of course you’re in the woods and you’re lost and you see a path, and then by all means you should follow that.”

Valedictorian Zachary Budnek praised those who had found a way to hold the commencement ceremony, COVID and all.

He extended his appreciation to teachers and the community

“The culture and community of Quilcene have helped students live to the fullest of the moments of their high school lives,” Budnek said. “Some moments are better than others, but all of them have helped build us into the people that we are today and will continue to become.”

“I personally want to thank my fellow classmates for coming to school and making the choice to actually pick up their pencils and do the work. Or in many cases, just being there,” he added.

Up, up and away.

Some of the graduates will land close to home; jobs or college. Others, in Pullman, Cheney, Boise, Wyoming, Montana, and beyond.

“The Quilcene Class of 2021 is heading out into the world,” Budnek said.

“We as students have repeatedly been pushed to make big decisions about schools, education, work, or goals, in general, in these last few months.

“But many students throughout this process, including myself, have forgotten one key important thing. The thing is — this is our life and we can accomplish or do anything we want. It is up to us, though, to put in the work to wherever we want to go in life. This is our life. The choices we make here on out are the ones that build us as individuals for the lives we want as young adults.”

“I can’t wait to see what my class accomplishes. The next five to 10 years are going to be amazing,” he said.

As “Faith & Sound” by Capital Cities played over the speakers, the graduates left the bleachers and pulled white roses from nearby tubs. They walked through the crowd, handing out flowers to friends and loved ones and getting hearty hugs in exchange.

After they returned to the stands,

Ladies and gentleman, it is my honor to present the graduated Quilcene Class of 2021,” Principal Sean Moss said as the audience erupted in a loud cheer.


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