From the start, it was a spectacle.
From 14 co-valedictorians swarming the stage to offer the class greeting, to a pack of powerful musical performances, to the show-capping cap toss, the Bainbridge High School and Eagle Harbor High School 2018 Commencement ceremony was something to see — and cheer.
More than 300 students received diplomas Saturday, June 16 during the ceremony at BHS, which was presided over by BHS Principal Kristen Haizlip, Bainbridge Island School District Superintendent Peter Bang-Knudsen, School Board President Sheila Jakubik, and fellow school board members Mev Hoberg and Tim Kinkead.
The 2018 co-valedictorians were Anna Banyas, Julia Batson, Daisy Bell, Katherine Bennett, Kyle Bierly, Dylan Cawman, Sophia Doane, Gisella Gonzalez, Sophia Kasper, Brielle Kinkead, Faith Yu Yu Madigan, Amelia Peeples, Erica Sprott and Lauren Witty.
Though the graduation ceremony stresses tradition and uniformity, Haizlip said the combined EHHS/BHS Class of 2018 was a group of distinction.
“Throughout the month of June, all over the nation, high school stadiums and auditoriums fill with spectators waiting to watch a sea of robbed teenagers walk across the stage,” she said. “Perhaps the intention of the caps and gowns is to make all the graduates look the same to you: the spectators in the stands. But to me, looking down at this sea of students today, I see 340 unique individuals. Each graduate ready to go out from Bainbridge Island on their own, unique adventure.”
This particular group was further distinguished, she said, by the impressive list of honors already bestowed on them, as the graduating roster included members of the National Honor Society, National Merit Commended Students, Washington State Principals’ Scholars, Washington State Honors Award recipients, National Art Honor Society members, and several students who managed to complete a simultaneous associate of arts degree via Running Start — in addition to a long list of scholarship and other award recipients in the capped crowd.
Some grads were bound for four-year schools — across the nation and in Europe — the principal said, while others were slated to start off at two-year or community colleges, pursue technical certifications, leap into the work force, take a gap year, or enlist in the military.
Though many of the grads had at least their first steps in mind, senior Max Weber, who delivered the day’s first class speech, reminded his fellow students that paths are just plans — and all plans can change.
“We’ve all done amazing and wonderful things, but now we’re all about to leap through the water and ferry out of this small inland sea we call the Puget Sound and out into the vast ocean of life,” Weber said. “In that ocean, each of us is our own wave, doing our own thing.
“But as I’m looking out right now … I don’t just see waves. I see those waves making up an ocean; the ocean of the Class of 2018. It’s one crazy ocean. It’s deep, and it’s colorful and it’s changing all the time.
“For water, there is no path,” he continued. “It can lift away from the ocean, settle across the land, or in lakes or rivers. It may come crashing onto other shores, onto other lands, but it will always be from the Puget Sound. We will always be from Bainbridge Island. We will always be the Class of 2018.”
Senior Mackenzie Chapman, in the day’s second class speech, discussed the concept of home by recalling her own tentative early days on Bainbridge, of being a friendless eighth-grader from somewhere else.
“Everyone seemed to know everyone,” she said. “At the beginning I really struggled [to make friends]. Friends have deep ties here and it’s hard for an outsider like I was to break into this community. In eighth grade I would go back-and-forth grabbing silverware so I didn’t have to sit down at lunch because I didn’t have anyone to sit with.”
Years later, friends made, before a big lacrosse match, as the players took turns discussing what they were thankful for, Chapman at last got her validation.
“To that day, I still questioned whether or not I’d earned my spot in this community,” she said. “When it came to my turn, I said what I had to say and once I finished my coach spoke up and said, ‘Mackenzie, Bainbridge is your home. This is where you belong and don’t let anyone ever tell you different.’”
It was, the senior recalled, “exactly what I needed to hear.”
“Bainbridge is my home — and, Class of 2018, this is your home, too,” she said. “Be proud of where you’re from.”
The day’s musical performances included renditions of “Rivers and Roads” by Riis Williams and Lauren Wallach; “Flying Free,” by the BHS Choir, accompanied by Sebastian Batali on guitar; “See You Again” by the student group Music Club (Clayton Black, Sebastian Batali, Jason Weiss, Yu Yu Madigan, Kevin McCann and Henry Brown); and several tunes by the BHS Band, whose final selection of the day, Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out,” was as inevitable as it was well-received.
Cheers, hugs and smiling photo ops ended the ceremony, as family and friends converged onto the BHS football field to meet up with their grads, and the music played on and summer, the first in which the students of the Class of 2018 will count up the days instead of down, commenced.