Well, it’s official: School’s out.
For some forever, for others through the fall only, but for the more than 300 seniors who received diplomas at the annual joint Bainbridge and Eagle Harbor high school graduation ceremony, the break — however long it’s set to last — began Saturday with the traditional cap toss.
This year, 282 students from Bainbridge High and 31 from Eagle Harbor High received diplomas, including 13 co-valedictorians: Evan Bergen Epstein, Sawyer Blair, Sean Halstead, Sydney Klatt, Hannah Lee, Noelle Lipschutz, Marianne Milander, Lindsay Payne, Vivian Powell, Catherine Rolfes, Georgia Sauermann, Sofia Scott and Aidan Wagner.
Among the grads were members of numerous prestigious clubs and groups, including the National Honor Society and National Art Honor Society, National Merit Scholars, National Merit Commended Students, Washington State Principal’s Scholars, Washington State Honors Award winners, and several students who’d managed to simultaneously achieve associate degrees via the Running Start program.
BHS Principal Kristen Haizlip, EHHS Dean of Students Tricia Corsetti, Bainbridge Island School District Superintendent Peter Bang-Knudsen, School Board President Mev Hoberg and School Board Directors Christina Hulet and Mark Emerson presided over the June 15 program, which saw a packed house to celebrate the Class of 2019.
The day included the traditional facets of commencement, from the pomp and circumstance of the opening processional to the class presentation, as well as several stirring musical performances, including an original composition, “A New Year,” written by BHS senior Ben Greene and performed by Greene, Mauricio Guzman, Mark Arends, Katie Hoch and Sarah Jung.
Ben E. King’s classic “Stand by Me” was given a fresh, soulful life by vocalist Nina Davis, accompanied by Carter Hall and Spencer Nicholas.
Then, violinist Sarah Jung returned to the front, alone this time, to perform a masterful rendition of famed Italian musician Niccolò Paganini’s “Caprice No. 5 from 24 Caprices.”
Beneath the day’s clear blue sky, smile wide beneath her sunglasses, Principal Haizlip began the program with the observation that Bainbridge, much like the larger region surrounding it, tends to save its best face for guests, weather-wise.
“Every June the weather turns a corner in the Pacific Northwest, out of those rainy spring days and into the promise of a sunny summer,” she said. “Graduation … usually turns out to be the perfect promotional material for those out-of-town guests who have traveled varied roads to get here to the stadium on Bainbridge Island.”
Varied roads was the main topic of co-valedictorian Sofia Scott’s speech, titled “Divergence,” which she opened with some iconic words from Robert Frost about roads not taken, using the poem to illustrate the diverging paths ahead for the departing grads.
“Throughout high school we were all on similar roads,” she said, “following a routine of going to school, going to various activities, going home and repeating the next day. But we all had the same eventual goal in mind: arriving at today.
“However, after today I want us all to go into the world knowing that we can decide where our roads lead now. Because we’ve come, like Robert Frost said, to our divergence. No longer will we will be on the same trajectory, heading to graduation. Our roads are leading in different directions.”
Urging her fellow grads to “not be afraid to take an abundance of roads less traveled,” Scott said her experiences at Bainbridge High had taught her to not live “an existence of if-onlys” — “If only I talked to that person, if only I tried that sport … if only I traveled that road.”
“As we walk off this stage today,” she said, “it is our turn to see new forests and forge new roads all our own.”
Returning to the podium, Haizlip told the crowd she often found encouragement during tough times in the enthusiasm and positivity of the students, a heartfelt sentiment only slightly undermined by the sudden distracting appearance of several beachballs.
“The best part of my job as a high school principal is the time I spend in the classrooms observing instruction and interacting with students,” the principal said. “When the complexities and challenges facing our community, our nation and our world seem too daunting, too divided, too filled with despair, stepping into a classroom where students are actively discussing those complexities, working through those challenges, and actually listening to each other…”
At which point the crowd burst into laughter as the seniors gamely batted about four giant, multicolored balls.
Haizlip, not phased, shrugged and said they are, after all, still teenagers.
“Many of them are under the age of 18,” she said. “And yet they still have those skills, the mindset and the compassion to take on the challenges the world has laid out for them.”
In his remarks preceding the official acceptance of the Class of 2019, Superintendent Bang-Knudsen, taking inspiration from a quote from President Theodore Roosevelt, imparted one particular bit of advice to the grads to help them — as Roosevelt said “dare greatly” — which earned rousing endorsement applause from the audience.
“Put down your phones,” Bang-Knudsen added. “Our phones encourage us to view the world through filters and enable us to become the critics on the outside rather than entering the arena of life. Our phones allow us to avoid the vulnerability that comes from having a face-to-face conversation and making new friends in person.
“So my advice of putting down your phones is about mental health,” he added. “It’s about being a good friend, it’s about being vulnerable and it’s about daring greatly.”