TACOMA — For the casual observer, it almost seemed as if the cavernous Tacoma Dome was a tight squeeze Tuesday night, June 12, for the visitors from Port Orchard.
The thousands of family and friends, who traveled southbound on Highway 16 to see the South Kitsap High School’s Class of 2018 commencement ceremony, squeezed into bleachers at one side of the wood-roofed arena to catch their favorite graduate walk up the red carpet runner and accept a diploma.
For the most part, the audience and the graduating students were on their best behavior, no doubt forewarned by strict instructions given by school administrators to the students instructing them to arrive sans extraneous outerwear, such as flower leis, bejeweled gowns and caps draped with signage. And audience members had to pass through one of seven metal detection scanners or be “wanded” by security guards, who were on the lookout for air horns, party favors and other forbidden celebratory accessories.
The anticipated large crowd brought with them a slightly tardy start to the ceremony. After South Kitsap’s principal, Diane Fox, welcomed the audience, the high school band played a lush rendition of “Freedom” prior to a light-hearted salutatory address by graduating student Torre DiGiovanni.
DiGiovanni recalled significant events, nationally and on campus, that impacted South Kitsap’s graduating students during their time as Wolves. One event, in particular, drew a collision of cheers and boos from the crowd: the election of Donald Trump as president and the advent of his unconventional administration. The young speaker also got a mixed reaction with his reference to the flurry of campus “threats to safety” that necessitated periodic evacuations, eliciting a few chuckles in the audience and a look of discomfort from administrators seated behind DiGiovanni.
Some of the Wolves’ sports teams received kudos from the graduate, including the school’s state champion wrestlers, and state tournament participants in baseball, track and others from preceding school years. Even the struggling South Kitsap football program caught a gentle tweak: “You guys worked really hard.”
Savannah Foster, co-valedictorian: “When [we joined] the Wolfpack, finally came some of the most painful, stressful, exciting and amazing four years of our lives: high school.”
Co-valedictorians Savannah Foster and Yue Yue Gunderson shared the podium by reminiscing about their days in first grade at Manchester Elementary. Gunderson asked Foster if she remembered when their fears were simple ones. Foster responded: “I remember when the biggest fear was losing our recess.” The two scholars recalled that the Class of 2018 shared a common thread, whether they started out as Cougars, Bears, Eagles, Sharks, Orca, Owls or as part of any other South Kitsap school: “We were all taught a similar lesson — appreciate the little things in life.”
Yue Yue Gunderson, co-valedictorian: “The combination of meaningful work and the enjoyment of that work can produce lasting satisfaction.”
Gunderson said “the future holds endless opportunities” for the graduates. And Foster noted that while the graduates are facing the next chapter in their lives, “that doesn’t mean goodbye forever and that doesn’t mean we have to change who we are.
“Because,” she said, “we are always Wolves.”
Diane Fox, South Kitsap High principal: “These young people — and I know from experience — are among the kindest students I have ever come to know.”
In her principal’s address, Fox also emphasized the power of being part of the Wolfpack: “I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a wolf when you go out into the real world. Wolves are self-reliant. You have learned who you are. You know yourselves enough to leverage your strengths and compensate for your weaknesses. And while you may welcome and appreciate the help of others, you neither expect nor desire that anything be given to you…
“Wolves keep their word. Keep your promises … know that what you say and what you write, the words that you choose, well, they matter. What the world needs now are wolves who are made for such times as these … always remember you are powerful. You are from Port Orchard, and you are forever the Wolf.”