'Finally!' Class of 2003 exits

Left to right, above, Oak Harbor seniors Jenni Smith, Kari Dunbar, Ashley Werring and Randi McIntyre prepare for one of their last moments together as high school students. - Marcie Miller
Left to right, above, Oak Harbor seniors Jenni Smith, Kari Dunbar, Ashley Werring and Randi McIntyre prepare for one of their last moments together as high school students.
— image credit: Marcie Miller

They had passed every test the school system could toss at them in 13 years, but questions still swirled among the 328 Oak Harbor High School seniors gathered in Parker Hall, preparing for graduation Monday night.

“Where do we line up?” “Does this scarf thing go over or under the honor cords?” “Does the tassel go on the right or the left?” “Can I borrow your pen? I need to write my name in my cap so I can find it after we toss them.” “Does anyone have any duct tape?” “Can I borrow your pen? I need to change the way they wrote my name.” “Where’s my partner?!?”

Sarah Milling pulled into the parking lot in a pickup decorated by her father, Navy Chief Petty Officer J.P. Milling. It looked like a rolling recruitment poster, with “Go Navy!” scrawled all over it.

“He just thought it was funny,” Milling said, shaking her head. She has no intention of joining the Navy, but will instead be going to Skagit Valley College, with an eye toward teaching.

Inside Parker Hall the noise level rose as commencement time drew closer.

“I can’t believe it’s already happening,” Kacee Dallen said, as Angela Collier helped pin on her cap. “It feels like a dream. I’m ready — excited, but ready to get it over with.”

Many of the graduates sported colorful leis, made by the Fil-Am Association. Elma Bagarella, proud mother of senior Kimberly Bagarella, said there were 15 Filipino-American students in the class of 2003.

The leis were made of flowers, candy or money, with dollar bill medallions.

Anna Galgana sported one of the money leis, and said she thought it signified wishes for great wealth in the future. That was probably a good guess, as she plans on attending the University of Washington and majoring in economics.

While high school graduation can mean a parting of the ways from long-time classmates, some of the seniors planned on carrying their friendships into adventures in adulthood.

Premsak Komsangtong, Jr. sat calmly awaiting the ceremony, large diamond earring sparkling. His friend Marvin Frith waited with him in street clothes, having graduated earlier from Burlington High School. The two planned on moving to Seattle to attend DeVry University. Komsangtong said he didn’t know what he would study there; his main goal was just getting out of Oak Harbor.

Best friends Crystal Trux and Misty Barnes were all set to move to Jacksonville, Fla., to live with relatives and go to school. Massage therapy classes were a possibility. Two young blonde women. Florida.

“Yeah, we’re really going to study,” Barnes said, eyes involuntarily rolling.

A world of possibilities marched down the aisle with the seniors as a gym full of parents, relatives and friends waited to share this life passage with them. The gym was so full, people with tickets were turned away at the door and had to watch the ceremony on a big screen in the Field House next door.

Speakers Kristan Acton and Tamara Neal advised the seniors to use their ingenuity, and not be afraid to make mistakes, but also to learn from those mistakes.

Top scholars Hilary Figgs and Chloe Veltkamp, with perfect 4.0 G.P.A.s, read the seniors a laundry list of life advice, including, “respect yourself,” “take a road trip,” “learn to do your own laundry,” “shave — often,” and “when writing a 10-page term paper, save often.”

Senior Class Advisors Ray Cone and Sally Jacobs presented the Outstanding Boy and Girl of 2003, selected by student vote for their significant contributions to the school.

Receiving the award were Elisha Kellie Gamble and Jonathan Jansen. Gamble and Jansen also have perfect 4.0 G.P.A.s and are two of the top five scholars in the class.

After taking a trip to France this summer, Gamble will attend Western Washington University. She plans on studying either multi-media art or women’s studies.

Jansen, a well-known school athlete, plans on attending Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa, where he will study biology-health professions.

For Oak Harbor Schools Superintendent Rick Schulte, this graduation was special. His daughter Meredith Schulte was one of the graduates.

His closing message to the graduating seniors had a personal note as well. Using the Wizard of Oz as a metaphor for education he reminded the class, “You can always come home. Please come back for a visit every now and then.”

The seniors learned their final lesson before they marched into the gym: tassels start on the left, then switch to the right after graduation.

You can reach News-Times reporter Marcie Miller at or call 675-6611

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