Drive-thru graduation sees island seniors safely celebrated

Would you like a diploma with that?

A drive-thru commencement ceremony may not have been the finale they’d spent four years envisioning, but the graduating seniors of the Class of 2020, with the help of their family, teachers and friends, eagerly bedecked the front of Bainbridge High School and their respective cars with festive adornments and made the best of things Saturday.

There was plenty of pomp despite the circumstance.

The annual joint Bainbridge and Eagle Harbor high school graduation ceremony, properly modified for current events, returned to the BHS campus Saturday, June 13. Maintaining social distancing and current government guidelines, school officials said, were the reasons for the revised ceremony, which saw students gather in the parking lot of the nearby Bainbridge Island Aquatic Center and drive in small groups to campus.

The cars then pulled into the front drop-off zone by the school’s flagpole, with only the graduate getting out to receive their diploma from district officials and pose for a quick photo.

A small crowd of supporters, most wearing masks, gathered along the street, and faculty members lined the drive, many bearing signs of praise and congratulations.

A video commencement ceremony was subsequently posted to YouTube, taking the place of the traditional gathering (search “Bainbridge Island School District Commencement Program” to view, or visit for a direct link).

This year’s class consisted of 337 seniors from Bainbridge High School, 14 from Eagle Harbor High School, and included numerous members of the National Honor Society, National Merit Scholars, Washington State Principal’s Scholars, National Art Honor Society members and several students who also completed an associate’s degree through the Running Start program, among other honors.

Following a performance by the Bainbridge High School Band, remarks by the class’ co-valedictorians Conor Babcock O’Neill, Tessa Bastiani, Chelsea Bourmatnov, Maximilian Doane, Matty Dunham, Christopher Hughes, Kaitlyn Hung, Ruby Laria, Katherine Jarecke, Nikolina Klinkenberg, Mariko Ronan, Madeleine Sherry, Isabel Thompson, Sofia Trail, Samantha Turpen, Jude Wenker and Elliot Weyend, filmed separately, were compiled for the opening greeting.

The school choir performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” before graduating senior Kristin Smit gave a speech entitled “This Point Right Now.”

Smit spared but a moment to regret what might have been, if not for the COVID-19 pandemic, before extolling the less obvious merits of the experience.

“Our final days of senior year should have been spent in the halls, cherishing our time with our classmates, trying to make it to Dairy Queen and back within our 35-minute lunch period, and visiting the front office for Friday candy,” she said.

“Instead, our final days were spent on our couches. The days that were once reserved for traditional rites of passage have been replaced with binging shows on Netflix. Homework has taken on a completely new meaning and zoom is no longer an onomatopoeia you learn about in ninth grade English class.”

“But,” she added, “just because we haven’t been able to walk through the halls these last few months doesn’t mean that what we’ve done doesn’t matter.”

Separation, in fact, brought the Class of 2020 closer together.

“Today was supposed to say that we are ready for life in the adult world, a world that would seemingly feel more lonely without our peers by our side,” Smit said. “We’ve been thrown into this isolating world too soon. Yet, instead of giving in, we have come together like no class has ever before. We’ve helped each other fight off our procrastination habits and fix the bugs on our Zoom calls. The lockdown has made us stronger.”

Graduating senior Spencer Bispham echoed similar sentiments in his speech, “Our Best Selves,” saying the experience of living through a pandemic was an excellent opportunity to reevaluate priorities.

“We live in a community and a society that puts so much emphasis on doing things a certain way: college, grad school, and work,” he said. “[Bainbridge High School] does their best to help us reach these goals but in the process our energies go toward things like homework, tests and sports [and] we lose sight of how we’re being our best selves and it can be hard to feel supported in having our own thoughts and ideas about how we live our lives.

“That plan that seemed so important, that everyone talks so much about, really only revolves around one thing: our success. And while that might be good, sometimes it’s necessary for us to take a step away from our privileges and our aspirations if we want to learn how to be our best selves and how to help others do the same.”

BHS Principal Kristen Haizlip said, during the Presentation of the Class of 2020, that although the event program lists the graduates’ many academic accomplishments, it was impossible to quantify their merits so clinically.

“I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve seen these students offer a friendly smile, a helping hand or a word of encouragement to a classmate, take an academic risk, explore challenging and complex ideas, and stretch their thinking, act with compassion and empathy and seek to make a difference in the local community and beyond, or say thank you to a teacher at the end of a lesson,” she said.

The commencement video also included BISD Superintendent of Schools Peter Bang-Knudsen conduct the official Acceptance of the Class of 2020, and individual performances by Chloe Lavigne and Ayver Libes, and John Colley and Cory Derzon-Supplee.