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Oak Harbor's scholarly class of 2013

Ever since Oak Harbor High School’s graduation ceremony moved outdoors in 2008, the weather has stayed dry. That streak continued Monday night when blue skies and sunshine made for a beautiful evening on a festive occasion at Wildcat Memorial Stadium. In all, 344 members of the Class of 2013 went on stage to receive diplomas, creating memories that left parents both happy and sad. - Ron Newberry/Whidbey News-Times
Ever since Oak Harbor High School’s graduation ceremony moved outdoors in 2008, the weather has stayed dry. That streak continued Monday night when blue skies and sunshine made for a beautiful evening on a festive occasion at Wildcat Memorial Stadium. In all, 344 members of the Class of 2013 went on stage to receive diplomas, creating memories that left parents both happy and sad.
— image credit: Ron Newberry/Whidbey News-Times

Alexis Richter couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful backdrop for her son’s graduation ceremony.

The sun shined brightly on Oak Harbor High School’s Class of 2013 Monday night, providing a picturesque setting for a memorable occasion.

The only problem for Richter was what the evening symbolized.

Her only child, Jack Richter, would be packing up soon and heading east.

All those years of playing catch with his father, Pete, diving for baseballs during Little League games and making a name for himself through the Oak Harbor schools, led to an opportunity. He earned a college baseball scholarship to Southeast Community College in Beatrice, Neb., about 45 miles south of Lincoln.

For Alexis Richter, Beatrice might as well be the moon.

“He’s my baby boy. He’s been our life,” Alexis said.

“He’s a dream come true.”

Richter was among 344 Wildcats who received their diplomas Monday night at Wildcat Memorial Stadium, leaving their parents shaking their heads and wondering where the time went.

The home side of the stadium was packed full of parents, friends and relatives. Some parents were caught up in the excitement, trying to snap pictures.

Others, including Warren Quinn, just did their best to contain their emotions.

Quinn flew in earlier in the day from Miami, Fla., to see his daughter Brianna graduate. Seeing her dressed formally in purple cap and gown, all grown up, filled him with memories.

“She was just a little baby ‚Ķ and now she’s off doing her own thing,” Quinn said of Brianna, who’s headed to Eastern Washington University.

“It makes you stop and think how fast time is.”

Debbie White knows that feeling.

She and her husband Joe White flashed back through the years as they watched their first born child receive her diploma.

Brianna White is the oldest of their four children.

“I can’t believe my little girl has graduated,” Debbie White said.

Through all the emotions, the mood was festive.

It was, after all, a time to celebrate a group of students for their accomplishments.

Life’s purpose was the theme of the evening’s speakers, which included departing Superintendent Rick Schulte, school board President Gary Wallin, Principal Dwight Lundstrom and top students Maddy Mosolino and Christina Wicker.

“We have prepared for you your future, not your past,” Wallin told the graduates.

“High school graduation is just the starting line for your future, not the finish line, and all of you have a huge head start.”

Wallin asked the graduating seniors to take note of how they were seated in the infield of the stadium. Teachers and staff sat with students, positioned in the outside seats. There was seating on opposite sides of the stage.

“You are surrounded by your teachers and staff,” Wallin said, “and your protective parents, family and friends are in front of you. You are at the center of our thoughts and focus tonight.

“I began my service as a school board member 13 years ago, just as you began kindergarten. All of us have had the honor and privilege of watching you grow up. We have been a witness to your amazing life and academic career. You’ve impressed us beyond belief.

“You are a very special group of students, and we, the entire of community of Oak Harbor celebrate with you,” Wallin added.

“The bottom line is you have made us very proud. I do not know what the future holds but I know that you hold the future and I feel very secure and happy knowing our future will be entrusted to you.”

Oak Harbor’s 101st graduating class included 83 scholarship recipients and 60 honor graduates with grade-point averages of 3.5 or better.

Six seniors already earned associate degrees from Skagit Valley College’s Oak Harbor campus.

Lundstrom announced that Oak Harbor’s 2013 class received $4,689,471 in total scholarship awards, including $969,000 from ROTC and military scholarships and $151,500 from local scholarships.

The night was a sentimental one for Schulte, who’s leaving Oak Harbor after 20 years as superintendent at the end of the month to tackle the same position with the Richland School District.

He said Monday night’s ceremony had special meaning knowing it would be the last one he’d preside over in Oak Harbor.

“I’ve done this 20 times,” he said.

Once was enough for Pete and Alexis Richter.

Officially, it was their second ceremony: They graduated from Oak Harbor High School in 1991, got married soon after, then began a life that centered around their son Jack.

That’s about to change soon.

“I’ve been crying all week,” Alexis said.

“I’m a little worried that they might go crazy,” Jack said. “My mom is definitely the scary one. My dad, I’m cool with. I know he’ll be fine but they’re going to have a little scary first couple of months. I’m definitely going to be calling home a lot.”

Larry and Melanie Munn have watched their daughter Jessica go through the Oak Harbor schools since kindergarten.

Dad wasn’t ready to see his little girl leave home yet. They made a compromise. She will start taking classes at Skagit Valley College.

“He fought hard to keep her close for a little while,” Melanie Munn said. “to let her slowly get her feet wet in the community on her own, then she can branch out.”

Larry Munn’s eyes lit up.

“She’ll get her first place here too probably,” he said.

“That way, it’s not going to be too big a deal if things don’t work out. If she needs to come home, there’s a bedroom.”

Community Events, April 2014

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