A downpour of ceremony
Rain has certainly threatened to impose itself on Newberg High School graduation in recent years, but the worst that has happened has been a few sprinkles.
It was evident, however, that the ceremony wasn't going to be able to avoid it this time, as it was already raining steadily when the soon-to-be graduates took their seats on Loren Douglas Field Friday night.
The 357-member Class of 2018 even got dumped on in the last 10 minutes of the ceremony and while that did cause a bit of a mad rush to finish things up and return to the gymnasium, the weather didn't dampen the graduates' spirits.
"We were all excited just to graduate," Branko Frketich said. "It was a fun experience. Everyone thinks of graduation as nice and sunny. For us, it was typical Oregon weather, pouring down rain when we switched the tassels. It was a pretty neat experience."
Oregon State University women's basketball coach Scott Rueck delivered the keynote address. Beyond his connection to Newberg from serving as head women's basketball coach at George Fox University, Rueck also shares a unique connection to the NHS class of 2018 itself.
Rueck and his wife, Kerry, both taught in the Newberg School District before his coaching career took off. In his introduction, NHS Principal Kyle Laier shared that many of the students from Kerry Rueck's final fourth-grade class at Antonia Crater Elementary were among those about to graduate. Coach Rueck then asked those students to stand up, eliciting a big cheer.
"That's a really coincidental highlight for us once we figured that out," he said. "It made this even more special. It's so good to be back. This is definitely home for us, our second home. We love it here. This place meant the world to us and I can't tell you how hard it was to leave. Even today it still feels like home to me."
As they prepare to begin their adult lives, Rueck had some advice about measuring success, specifically not to keep score with things like money because "the scoreboard is a liar."
"The scoreboard does not necessarily mean success," Rueck said. "In fact, we could play the worst game of our season and still beat a team. So the scoreboard is a liar, really anything you can count. We might play our best game and lose."
Rueck went on to break down the success of this past season's Oregon State team, distilling it to three key characteristics: competency, character and relationships. That group was not supposed to be elite, but managed to win the program's third consecutive Pac-12 title.
As a Division-I program, Rueck said the Beavers were certainly competent when it came to their basketball skills, but when he recruits he looks for players who also have great character, who show the potential for growth and ability to handle adversity.
The 2017-2018 OSU team had character in spades, Rueck said, but also built solid relationships that allowed the players to flourish collectively. Prior to playing an NCAA tournament game at Tennessee, Rueck said he was unafraid to tell his team that the Volunteers were 57-0 in home NCAA tournament games because they would accept it as a challenge, not a reason to be afraid or scared.
"I knew they would take it right," Rueck said. "I knew they would relish the opportunity to put a 1 in that column. Down the stretch we made every play and we added the 1 to the column. It was incredible."
Mirroring the togetherness that many of the speakers credited the class of 2018 for showing, this year's 18 valedictorians chose to use their time at the podium not to speak about their own personal journey and triumphs, but to highlight all of the accomplishments their class had achieved while at NHS.
That included high honors in academics, athletics and a wide range of extracurricular activities, but also community service and those who have committed to serve in the military in the coming months. Each time they asked students who had excelled in those areas to stand and be recognized.
"It was a really cool thing to let people know they appreciate the people who worked hard for this school, went to state and did things for the school, like community service," said graduate Cameron Sutton, who is headed to the Marines. "They pointed that out and I think that was a huge part of high school for people, too, all the extracurricular stuff, like band and choir that went to state and won."
Although it's not the only recent graduating class to have been subjected to many changes during their time at NHS, the class of 2018 certainly has a good argument for having been handed the most. The class of 2018 is the last to have experienced the small-school structure, when they were freshmen, and have had three different principals since NHS moved to a comprehensive format. They have also endured the change from block to a seven-period class schedule and the loss of advisory.
In the midst of so many transitions, many felt communication between the administration, teachers and students suffered greatly, but in some ways, handling those challenges is part of what brought the class of 2018 together.
"There's never an enemy at school, but we did kind of have a unified enemy of miscommunication," valedictorian Nicholas Broce said. "It wasn't the teachers. It wasn't the admin. The lack of communication was our enemy and it definitely brought a lot of people together. I think there were a lot of great connections that were made here despite the troubles that we've had."
Some even said that it was oddly fitting, then, for a downpour to open up during the final portion of the ceremony.
"I think we just embraced it," grad Taylen Reid said. "It kind of added to it, made it special. We were in a downpour for our graduation."