Kingston grads talk about building communities like theirs

A perfect day of sunshine greeted Kingston High School’s class of 2024 as they walked across the stage at North Kitsap School District Stadium in Poulsbo June 8 to receive their diplomas and venture off into the next chapter of their lives.

It was a joyous occasion as families and friends packed the stands to celebrate the 150 graduates. The ceremony lasted about an hour, and consisted of a welcoming song from Suquamish and Port Gamble S’Klallam tribal members, performances from the KHS band, speeches from students and staff, and concluding with the turning of the tassels and graduates tossing their caps to the skies.

“Many of these graduates were born the year that Kingston High School opened. You are the living representation of the history of our school. When you’re all getting hip replacements, your job is to come back and volunteer for the facilities committee,” principal Miranda Smallwood joked.

“We’re the smallest 2A high school in the state of Washington with over half of our 22 senior-led varsity, athletic programs having teams and individuals represented in state competition,” Smallwood added. “These accomplishments highlight the strength of a community that comes together to support its youth.”

The students who spoke were salutatorian Laila McNamara and valedictorian Marissa Gomez. Both touched on the adversity the class of 2024 faced the past few years and how coming together as a community has helped them overcome.

“We all have stood face to face with hardships, whether it was in or outside of the classroom,” Gomez said. “Despite the challenges that we as a class have endured these past four years, we are still here today. We have persevered and worked hard to get to this point of our lives. We have used the lessons we have learned and the knowledge we have gained to navigate through life every day. You’re not only growing academically but also as individuals and as members of our community, and I truly think that is something that should be celebrated.”

McNamara said: “You built stepping stones for future students to succeed, and you rebuilt our school after a pandemic. You should be proud of the legacy that you’re leaving behind…A community is a choice, something you build and work towards but also something that many of us overlook. We wish we lived in a larger town or went to a bigger school, but knowing that you have this community behind your back should give you comfort.

“You have a choice— the choice to go about your future as just an individual or the choice to make communities. I encourage you to reach out to people, make connections, be kind to those around you, even total strangers, and have the willingness and an open mind to try new things. Build those communities!”

Graduates play in the KHS band one final time.

Graduates play in the KHS band one final time.