Oak Harbor High School’s class of 2018 reached graduation through four years of hard work, dedication and some last minute scrambles to finish assignments after procrastinating— or at least some of the student speakers admitted to that. However the primary force behind their collective successes, and the theme of Saturday’s ceremony, was ambition.
“Ambition is the drive that turns each of us into instruments of change,” one of the top students, Ben Gasper, told the crowd.
Gasper and Ainsley Pollitt were the class valedictorians. The three other student speakers —- Phoebe Keliikupakako, Andrea Ruben and Beth Paul —- were selected through auditions.
Students, staff, families and friends gathered on a warm sunny Saturday afternoon at Wildcat Memorial Stadium to celebrate the accomplishments of the 327 students receiving their diplomas. Speakers acknowledged achievements such as collectively earning over $3 million in scholarships, the robotics club building tiny houses for the homeless, the key club making blankets for the Seattle Children’s Hospital and students organizing and leading a large walkout to protest gun violence.
Superintendent Lance Gibbon said the young people before him were in “stark contrast” to what he saw in high school during what he called the “me generation” of the 1980s. He said movies and TV shows at the time portrayed an emphasis on “stuff and power.” He applauded the students’ service projects over the years and willingness to have discussions about social change.
“You’ve demonstrated an inspirational ambition to make the world a better place and serve others,” Gibbon told the students. “… Your heart for service is something we can all aspire to.”
One of the student speakers, Keliikupakako, disputed claims her generation was one of the most entitled and unmotivated. She said she’s witnessed her class fight for what it believes in, both in school and society.
“We stress about what we’re going to do in our future because we want to do something great and impactful,” she said. “I’m thankful that I get to graduate as part of the class of 2018 because I know each and every one of us has worked hard to get to where we are today, and I know that this ambition will not stop here.”
Principal Dwight Lundstrom left the students with parting advice for accomplishing their “new big, ambitious goals.” He told them to break those big goals into smaller ones, listen first and then ask questions. The most important advice, he said was to “be human.”
“You will need help along the way and the human experience is a shared experience,” Lundstrom said. “Being human will provide you and those around you the support you will need to reach your big ambitious goals.”