Students from Peninsula and Gig Harbor high schools moved their mortarboard tassels from right to left Sunday to mark the official conclusion of their basic education careers.
The Tacoma Dome was the setting on Father’s Day, during which seniors from two of the Peninsula School District’s three high schools received their diplomas before they take the next step in their lives.
Some plan to go into the labor force, technical or trade school, college or the military.
Henderson Bay High School held its graduation ceremony Saturday afternoon at the Gig Harbor Boys & Girls Club.
First up was Peninsula High School’s noon graduation ceremony. Soon-to-be graduates — men in green caps and gowns, women dressed in white — excitedly mingled backstage just before the start of the ceremony.
Students offered each other congratulations and celebratory handshakes and hugs, and they posed for photographs.
Many sported mortarboards with personal touches — some with glitter, some with colorful drawings and others with text that expressed the joy and relief of completing four years of high school.
“I’m excited, but I enjoyed school,” said Alek Silva, 18, indicating he wasn’t sure what he was going to do in his down time now that he doesn’t have any homework to do or papers to write.
His post-graduation plans include attending Tacoma Community College and then transferring to Western Washington University in Bellingham.
Silva said he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do in terms of a career, but he said he’s leaning toward either theater or psychology. He said attending Tacoma Community College this fall will help him focus.
“That’s kind of where you go to find out what you want to do,” Silva said.
Fellow student Brittany Surratt, 18, had similar sentiments just before she walked through the curtains.
“It’s like such a relief that we all finally made it,” she said. “It’s awesome.”
She plans to attend Pierce College in Lakewood and play for the school’s fastpitch softball team.
Surratt, too, was unsure of what she’ll study in college, although she said it likely will have something having to do with children.
The start of the Peninsula High School Band’s rendition of Pomp and Circumstance meant it was time for students to walk to their seats, although some danced, skipped or strutted to their chairs.
Associated Student Body President Kyla Borders wished everyone a happy Father’s Day and introduced Principal Tim Winter, who said he was proud of the graduating class, noting they have the talents that will take them far in life.
Faculty speaker Kimberly Napier offered some advice on how to live.
“Life is about balance,” said Napier, a Peninsula High School teacher.
Part of life means letting go of what is not useful and vital and being willing to change, she said.
“This is how we make ourselves receptive to what awaits us,” Napier said. “It is the courage to choose the life you want.”
She encouraged the class of 2013 to embrace mistakes and other difficult times as part of the process of learning to move forward.
“We all make mistakes,” she said. “We all fail. We are, all of us, a work in progress.”
Top 10 graduate Jessica Schatz took that message to heart and advised her classmates and those in the audience to make every day count. Her version of that sentiment included a spirited rendition of “Thrift Shop” by Seattle-based rapper Macklemore and his producer, Ryan Lewis, which brought the house down.
It was a tough act to follow for student speaker Blake Dukowitz, but he managed to do so with grace, emotion and a touch of humor.
“We’re all here for a purpose — our graduation,” he said, taking note of the various cliques that make up the high school student population. “I’m immensely proud of you all.
“We’ve all changed and grown so much,” he continued. “I can’t believe how fast these years have gone by.”
All that was left was to graduate.
“And now we are moving on,” he said. “The wait is over. We are adults — kind of.”
After the presentation of diplomas to graduating students, Borders returned to the stage for the final, official sendoff.
“I am proud to be a Seahawk,” she said after she led the traditional tassel switch. “Now, class of 2013, it’s time to graduate.”
GIG HARBOR HIGH
Graduating Gig Harbor High School students took center stage at 3 p.m.
Backstage bustled with activity as students — men clad in blue gowns and women in white — faculty and staff members prepared for the ceremony to get under way.
“I’m really happy, but I’ll miss like my friends and stuff,” said Grace Berg, 18, who stuck her head out from behind the backstage curtains to get a look at the crowd in the stands.
Berg plans to attend Grand Canyon College in Phoenix, Ariz., and study communications.
Still, she’s not entirely sure about her major at this time, adding she’s also considering a degree that has to do with working with disabled children, an idea inspired in part by a disabled sibling.
Warren Fazio, 18, said he plans to attend Tacoma Community College and major in psychology.
“Very excited,” he said of graduating from high school.
Principal Tom Leacy welcomed those in attendance by wishing everyone a happy Father’s Day.
“But this isn’t just for them,” he said to the audience. “It’s for you, too.”
Student speaker Aidan O’Neill said high school graduation was not a finish line in life, but just the start.
“The last 12 years of school have not been child’s play,” he said, noting that it’s a person’s youngest years in which they are most malleable.
Faculty speakers Eleanor Ledbetter and Molly Pugh shared some lessons they’ve learned during their more than 50 years of combined teaching experience, advising students to take care of their bodies, maintain a positive attitude and not take themselves too seriously.
Echoing O’Neill, student Clare O’Brien-Lambert said high school graduation is not the high point of life — that there is much more to look forward to — but the past four years have been invaluable.
“I’m going to bring all of the memories from Gig Harbor High School with me,” she said.
O’Brien-Lambert urged her classmates not to stress too much about the future or dwell so much in the past.
“Live in the present,” O’Brien-Lambert said, referencing the acronym YOLO, for “you only live once.”
“If you live right,” she said, “one is enough.”
After diplomas were handed out, student Cameron McClellan made some closing remarks and presented the Gig Harbor High School class of 2013.