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Coupeville grads get ready to go places

Whether strutting in bold red boots, wobbling on grown-up high heels or rolling in high tech wheelchairs, the Coupeville High School class of 2004 is going places.

Saturday marked the final day of 13 years of education for the group of 73 seniors, many of whom had been together since the first day of kindergarten.

That longevity of togetherness made Saturday’s graduation ceremony bittersweet for some, as they looked toward the future, and reflected on the past.

As class Salutatorian Joivanna Cashen looked around the girls’ locker room, where the assembled group was surprisingly calm before the ceremonial storm, she estimated 90 percent of them had been together their entire school years.

“I’m excited and nervous,” she said of the impending ceremony. “It’s a great way to end and a good beginning.”

Cashen will be heading off to Washington State University in the fall, where she will study zoology.

Principal Phyllis Textor noted in her speech that 45 percent of the Class of ‘04 was going on to a four-year college, 37 percent were going to community college and 3 percent were going into the military.

“This class always displayed enormous character,” she said, “from the eight grade peace mandala to their senior projects, they did it all with style.”

Some of the seniors waiting had already moved on from high school, attending Running Start full-time at area community colleges.

Devin Brown has been going to Whatcom Community College in Bellingham for the last year and a half. He felt Saturday’s ceremony was “just another day.”

As he surveyed his classmates he wondered if they were ready to make the transition from high school to college.

His advice: “A schedule is the most important thing.” He also said students going off to college shouldn’t get too caught up in partying. “There are a lot of distractions,” he noted. Perhaps that’s where the scheduling comes in.

Brown plans on attending Western Washington University in Bellingham, and majoring in either psychology or art.

Class Valedictorian Bonnie Gnehm and Jaclyn Reynolds received AA degrees from Skagit Valley Community College along with their high school diplomas at Saturday’s commencement ceremony. Both young women also wore gold honor cords, signifying 3.7 to 4.0 grade point averages.

As the class waited to enter the gym, together for one last time, Principal Textor told the assembled family and friends that the class had chosen to enter in a non-traditional “celebratory” manner.

With that the Foofighters’ “Times Like These” blasted from the speakers, and the seniors entered on either side of the stage, more like rock stars than young people entering adulthood. After several minutes of applause and cheers from their adoring fans, the group reassembled into lines for the solemn procession up the center aisle to the traditional “Pomp and Circumstance.”

In her valedictory address to her classmates, Gnehm took them down memory lane before pointing them toward the future. From wearing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle stretch pants to venturing into forbidden areas of the playground, on to middle school, “three years we wish we could forget,” to high school.

“High school was where we grew up,” she said. “These were the years that mattered most.”

It was a time when they formed bonds that may last a lifetime, or may fade when they go their separate ways, and a time when they became who they are.

“Time will never slow down,” she told them, “You just have to enjoy the ride.”

Salutatorian Joivanna Cashen reminded the seniors of a sentiment from the late great Mr. Rogers, that everyone leaves something of themselves with those they meet.

She told of working in an orphanage in Mexico, and how touched she was by a little boy who gave her the gift of unconditional love, leaving a piece of himself with her. She thanked the teachers who had done the same.

“Embrace every moment,” she said. “Take each step like you never have before.”

While at times in their school careers the members of a small school may have wished for more anonymity, that size also allowed each individual to be recognized at the ceremony. Faculty speaker Guy “Doc” Whittaker recited the alphabet, listing every students name interspersed with sage advice, and when the senior class presented a slide show collage of their progress from infants to seniors there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

Every student was also invited to write a personal note in the ceremony program, remembering the past and outlining their future plans.

Ursula Berg wrote that she had attended Coupeville schools for her entire life, and she will be making her first major move, to Portland to attend Lewis and Clark College. “I would like to thank everyone who helped me get to where I am,” she wrote.

Ian Curtis wrote of the “horror” of demolishing trashcans with his wheelchair, and said, “my future looks even greater as I take off to Microsoft for a paid summer internship.” He will then attend the University of Washington to major in computer science.

For all the speeches, hugs and tears, senior Andre Cooper summed it up eloquently, “Peace to the Coupeville clan. See ya on the flip side fam.”

You can reach News-Times reporter Marcie Miller at mmiller@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611

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