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Messy tradition for graduating seniors started decades ago

Celebrating the end of high school, senior Megan Mitchell takes part in the traditional paper toss at Oak Harbor High School. The graduating class of 2014 tosses papers saved during the school year. Some students would sit in the piles of paper and were partially buried as more paper was tossed at them by friends.  - Photo by Michelle Beahm/Whidbey News-Times
Celebrating the end of high school, senior Megan Mitchell takes part in the traditional paper toss at Oak Harbor High School. The graduating class of 2014 tosses papers saved during the school year. Some students would sit in the piles of paper and were partially buried as more paper was tossed at them by friends.
— image credit: Photo by Michelle Beahm/Whidbey News-Times

High school graduation is a rite of passage that seniors look forward to all school year.

At Oak Harbor High School, there’s another tradition that students anticipate.

A long-standing ritual at the end of the school year for seniors is gathering all of the paper assignments they’ve saved throughout the school year and tossing them in the air as soon as the final bell rings on their last day.

Sally Jacobs, in charge of the senior class until retiring in 2006, said that the tradition is at least as old as the high school building, which opened in 1975.

“Sid Parker, in an effort to keep paper and stuff contained, said that we would have a paper toss in Parker Hall, shut the doors, only let seniors in, and let them toss their paper and then go home,” Jacobs recalled.

Jacobs said she didn’t know if the tradition had already been in place before moving into the building.

High school Principal Dwight Lundstrom said the paper toss was going on at the school before he started working there.

“I’ve always thought it was kind of a fun tradition, though,” he said.

Lundstrom said that when he was a teacher at the school, students used to “ransack my recycle bin so they had papers to toss.”

“I think it’s just the celebration of the end of their high school experience,” Lundstrom said.

According to Lundstrom, teachers enjoy it, too.

“A lot of them come down and take pictures and say goodbye to the kids,” he said. “I think they join in the celebration with the kids.”

Another part of the tradition is that, after the seniors have their fun tossing their papers, the juniors must clean up their mess.

Picking up the papers is what the juniors must do if they want to have a paper toss during their senior year, Lundstrom explained.

“The juniors clean it up every year, and they don’t grouse about it,” Jacobs said, “because they know that next year, they’ll be throwing the paper and someone else will be cleaning it up.”

“It’s a fun event, it’s a good time for the kids,” said Lundstrom.

“I think it’s a pretty wholesome tradition that Oak Harbor continues to uphold.”

 

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