The Central Kitsap School District recently held virtual graduations for each of its schools last week, marking the first time outgoing seniors couldn’t congregate with their fellow classmates, school staff, and families to enjoy the normal annual graduating experience.
CKSD high schools are comprised of Central Kitsap High School, Olympic High School, Klahowya Secondary School and Barker Creek Community School, all of which held a drive-thru graduation celebration the day of their virtual graduating ceremony. First up was Barker Creek Community School, who held their graduation events June 10.
“We have never done a virtual graduation before, and to be honest, hopefully we don’t do one again soon,” Barker Creek Community School Principal Stuart Crisman said. “We wanted to take this opportunity to celebrate their journey through the school system that culminates with this important recognition of their successful completion of high school.”
Many outgoing graduates also spoke during the commencement, including Finn Genoversa, who didn’t initially think they would reach the summit of high school.
“There was a point when I didn’t even think I was going to graduate, let alone give a speech,” Genoversa said. “I made so many friends and I had so many cool teachers that, to me, Barker has been the best place I could have hoped (to) end up at. I really do want to say thank you to my teachers who are all so incredibly patient with me, who want to see me succeed and help me get here. Thank you for caring about my interests.”
The next day, Central Kitsap High School held their senior festivities to celebrate the first class to graduate out of the newly constructed high school — even if they didn’t get to spend as much time in the new space as they would have liked.
“Congratulations class of COVID-19,” CKHS Valedictorian Alex Huang said while wearing a mask and pretending to cough. “Sorry, I mean class of 2020,” as Huang ripped his mask off to start his speech.
“It was a rough year, but we made it in one piece,” Huang went onto say. “This obviously isn’t the graduation of our dreams. We’re not walking together or receiving our diplomas together. It seems like senior skip day turned into senior skip semester.”
CKHS Principal Craig Johnson also addressed his outgoing senior class by urging them to not sulk about graduating in a pandemic, but rather to look back on all the times beforehand as a culmination to this point.
“Today does not define you,” he said. “Today is a celebration of you and your character. You will always be a part of what makes Central Kitsap High School, one Cougar nation.”
As the weekend came around, Klahowya Secondary School was next in line to honor its seniors the best way they could on June 12.
“You’ve overcome unique and unrivaled challenges to reach this day,” KSS Principal Jodie Woolf said. “My hope is that you’ll continue to be kind to one another, to continue to help one another and use the knowledge and skills you’ve acquired over your 18 years to help make our communities, nation and world better because you are a part of it.”
Salutatorian Natalie Wise chose not to reflect on the hectic last year that has been 2020, but rather to the person she has molded into since walking through those school doors.
“When I look back at my time at Klahowya, it’s not our experience with COVID-19 that sticks out, but rather it’s our time together and how it changed each one of us,” she said. “As a quiet, shy 7th grader walking down the halls of Klahowya on our first day of school, I had no idea that our class would become a family, supporting each other through our failures and triumphs, good times and bad.”
Rounding out the unique virtual graduation ceremonies for CKSD was Olympic High School, who held their senior events on Saturday, June 13.
“It is completely normal to be fearful when faced with change and uncertainty, but as Nelson Mandela once said ‘I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it,’” OHS Principal Gail Danner said. “Get into your vessel and set your sights on the horizon.”
Valedictorian Jamie Frei urged her fellow graduating classmates to rely on themselves to make decisions even when getting pressure from friends and family.
“Today, as I find myself speaking to empty auditorium seats instead of a sea of blue caps and gowns, I can’t help but think of the familiar faces who will be watching this commencement on the other side of the screen,” Frei began.
“While the opinion of others sometimes factors into our decisions, it is up to us to take a leap of faith, to put our full energy into the future.”
The number of seniors graduating from all four CKSD schools are as follows: Barker Creek Community School – 124, Central Kitsap High School – 325, Klahowa Secondary School – 140, Olympic High School – 280. To view the virtual graduation archives for each high school, visit ckschools.org/news_and_events/graduation.