Tyler May, left, and Truth Underwood celebrate receiving their diplomas Saturday afternoon at the Oak Harbor High School graduation ceremony. Top photo, graduates toss their mortar boards in the air after Superintendent Lance Gibbon officially declared them the Oak Harbor High School graduating class of 2019. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

Tyler May, left, and Truth Underwood celebrate receiving their diplomas Saturday afternoon at the Oak Harbor High School graduation ceremony. Top photo, graduates toss their mortar boards in the air after Superintendent Lance Gibbon officially declared them the Oak Harbor High School graduating class of 2019. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

Oak Harbor graduates reflect on the meaning of it all

Oak Harbor High School graduating seniors gathered Saturday at Wildcat Stadium in front of friends, family, honored guests, “regular guests,” teachers and staff to contemplate the existential question: “What’s the point?”

Seven student speakers, the principal and superintendent gave their interpretations of why the students worked so hard to get to graduation and why continue?

“Life has no purpose; life has no meaning,” joked student speaker and one of the valedictorians Alex Amick.

Amick went on to say that it is up to people to assign meaning and significance within their own lives and to have faith in their vision and interpretation of life.

Principal Dwight Lundstrum had worried this year’s chosen theme was “sarcastic and flippant,” he said. That is, until he heard the students audition to speak as they demonstrated thoughtfulness, concern for future and belief in kindness.

The speakers discussed hope, students’ agency in the trajectory of their lives, the value in helping others and the power of perseverance. While looking ahead, some of the students also reflected on and expressed gratitude for the value of high school.

Natalie Hahn, another valedictorian, said secondary education offered practical life lessons outside of chemistry and algebra, such as learning how to learn.

“The other point of high school is to provide us all with a place where we can safely discover ourselves and still make mistakes,” Hahn said.

Speakers acknowledged the benefit of their struggles in addition to their successes. They stressed the importance of the lows to properly appreciate the highs. These feelings, both positive and negative, are the point, said valedictorian Julia Beumer.

The meaning and lessons each student will take away from their 13 years in school will be as varied as the students themselves, said valedictorian Logan Ince. And although each of their achievements will be unique, he said the ones that will be the longest lasing and most worth doing are the ones that help others.

Superintendent Lance Gibbon echoed this sentiment. He discussed research that shows no correlation between material belongings and life satisfaction.

“Bigger is not better and more does not make you happier,” he told the 342 graduates who walked.

He recognized the community contributions many in the class had already done, such as the robotics team building a prosthetic for a young girl or the potluck prepared and served by transitions students to police officers.

Several of the speakers thanked community members for their role in the graduates’ success.

Collectively, the class earned $187,850 in local scholarships this year, Lundstrom said.

The students had good reason to celebrate that sunny Saturday afternoon, Lundstrom said.

Overall, 81 students earned $6.8 million in scholarships this year, which includes full-ride military scholarships for seven students, he said. Graduation and all they’ve accomplished so far are significant milestones— but they aren’t the last ones.

“You are now on the edge of moving towards your adult lives,” Lundstrom said to the rows of young adults. “The point is, the future is yours to build,” he later added. “Build it with optimism. Build it bravely. Build it around your passion. The point is that you will have many more moments to celebrate in your lives.”

Graduates toss their caps in the air after Superintendent Lance Gibbon officially declared them the Oak Harbor High School graduating class of 2019. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

Graduates toss their caps in the air after Superintendent Lance Gibbon officially declared them the Oak Harbor High School graduating class of 2019. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

Hallyson Parker embraces an Oak Harbor High School teacher at the conclusion of Saturday’s graduation ceremony. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

Hallyson Parker embraces an Oak Harbor High School teacher at the conclusion of Saturday’s graduation ceremony. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

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