BREMERTON — “What time is it?”
At 7 p.m. June 9, 290 students clad in blue robes descended on Memorial Stadium. By the end of the night, those 290 students left the field as graduates of Bremerton High School.
“It has been a long road,” student class speaker Giancarlo Parra said. “But we have finally made it to this big day — the day ‘Orange is the New Black’ season five officially streams on Netflix.”
Well, and Parra and his fellow 289 seniors in the BHS Class of 2017 graduate high school.
“It has been a long one, and I like to see it as a giant road trip,” Parra said. “We’ve all changed so much from kindergarten to graduation. We went from crying because we don’t want to take a nap to crying because we can’t take a nap because of the math test tomorrow.
“We survived a lot of things together, too: Y2K, 9/11, the emo phase, the apocalypse of 2012, Ebola, senioritis, raining at graduation … As we’ve all demonstrated, we can persevere. We’ve made it here. We will continue to make our way through the various obstacles of life.”
The graduation ceremony itself was not without obstacles. As students proceeded onto the Memorial Stadium field (this being the last class to graduate on the original, real-grass field, as Superintendent Aaron Leavell pointed out), a rainbow brightened the sky above them. By the time they were seated, however, rain was coming down steadily and students utilized the umbrellas provided.
On top of that, the audio equipment had a few glitches, not helped by the heavy wind sending static across the speakers that did pick up the signal.
But in the end, those 290 students walked across the stage, shook the hands of Leavell and their principal, Monica Sweet, and changed their tassles over to signify that they had, in fact, graduated high school.
“Your purpose-seeking journey starts here, right now, as you take your seats as graduates,” Sweet said at the ceremony.
Sweet said the students collectively had earned about $2.3 million in tuition offers and scholarship aid, and the students would go on to eventually become inspirational leaders, scholars, artisans and more.
“Your path to purpose … begins when you wake up tomorrow as graduates,” Sweet said.
Parra told his fellow graduates, “Although we’ll never all be together in the same place like this ever again — except on Tuesday when we pick up our diplomas — no matter how far apart we may be, from time to time, we will look back at graduation.”
Parra said that while they may forget the minor details of who was dating whom, or that it was raining, or that time they “didn’t turn in that one English assignment, or that other English assignment, or that other English assignment …” they would remember and “be thankful for the people who got you here.”
“You’ll be thankful for the friends you made in kindergarten,” he said. “You’ll be thankful for the friends you made at the end of senior year. You’ll be thankful for your best friend, even if you don’t talk anymore. You’ll be thankful for the important life lessons you learned. You’ll be thankful for Bremerton High School and how you made it to graduation.”
Teacher Jay Montgomery had some advice for graduates.
“Make life better,” he said. “Be someone who makes life better. Make yourself better. Make relationships better. Make your community better. Make your life better by always striving to improve … don’t be lazy. Lend a hand. Volunteer. Be a problem solver. Don’t just sit back and complain. Get out there and make things better.
“I don’t have all the answers, but I do have hope,” Montgomery said. “I hope you fight the good fight. I hope you remain faithful. I hope you follow what Mrs. Zimmer taught you in financial literacy. I hope you lead a meaningful, intentional and purposeful life.”
Leavell spoke to the students immediately before they were lead on stage, row by row, to accept their diplomas, and spoke briefly of their accomplishments before closing with a single, simple question that the students all answered in a raucous cheer: “What time is it?”
— Michelle Beahm is an editor with Kitsap News Group. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.