Windy tradition kept alive by Wildcat grads

Valedictorian Denzel Massey, left, leads the procession into the ceremony on Monday. Massey, along with eight other graduates, had a perfect 4.0 grade point average. - Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times
Valedictorian Denzel Massey, left, leads the procession into the ceremony on Monday. Massey, along with eight other graduates, had a perfect 4.0 grade point average.
— image credit: Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times

Oak Harbor High School Principal Dwight Lundstrom stepped up to the microphone in Wildcat Memorial Stadium Monday evening and found himself facing a blanketed and hooded crowd.

“Well, it’s another normal Oak Harbor graduation,” Lundstrom said. “Twenty-knot winds.”

As the band played “Pomp and Circumstance,” the graduates filed onto the football field desperately clutching their hats and swatting away the tassels and hair the wind continually whipped in their faces. When all of the seniors had at last reached their seats, the football field became an ocean of purple as gowns were blown and rippled in waves.

But as valedictorian Sasha Olson pointed out, the class of 2011 was used to adapting to new and chaotic environments.

“We are the first class to see every phase of construction,” Olson said. “And we still don’t know our way around the school.”

Olson was one of nine valedictorians who spoke at the ceremony, all of whom graduated with perfect 4.0 grade point averages. The others included Price Hu, Paige Nienhuis, Denzel Massey, Katelyn Bristow, Jazlen Rice, Krista Holloman, Zoë Bakker and Adrienne Beebe. The top  nine performed a combined speech about the promise of America. The graduates made it clear that they understood they were blessed to live in a country full of opportunities, and they didn’t hesitate to list off the opportunities they planned to give their fellow countrymen and the world.

“These last four years will not be the best years of your life,” Bristow said even as she listed the seniors’ many accomplishments. Despite the culinary teams’ state titles, the band’s superior contest ranking and the many honors bestowed upon ROTC, Bristow encouraged the students not to settle for the pride of their past, but to embrace the future whole-heartedly.

“The class of 2011 truly does have the ability to revolutionize the world,” Nienhuis added.

Massey echoed Nienhuis’ confidence when he spoke and drew upon President Ronald Reagan’s “shining city” where men and women of courage and determination prosper and lead.

“We have shown that we are the lights that illuminate that city,” Massey said. “We are the promise of America.”

The capabilities of the seniors were proven when Lundstrom announced that together the class had been offered a total of $5,563,237 in scholarships and awards. Oak Harbor School Board member Peter Hunt said that about 75 percent of the students planned to attend a traditional college or university next year while the remaining 25 percent planned to head to a trade school or have pledged to serve their nation in various branches of the military.

Before the diplomas were awarded, Superintendent Rick Schulte reminded the anxious students that though they had accomplished a tremendous feat, they still have a long road of discovery ahead.

“High school graduation matters because it shows you have learned how to learn,” Schulte said and guaranteed the students that they would have plenty more learning to do.

When the graduates finally rose to cross the stage and accept their certificates, the crowd whooped and applauded, and in that moment the Wildcats’ windy city truly did shine.


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