Three themes were prominent during Wilsonville High School's Class of 2018 graduation ceremony June 7: the value of looking back, looking forward and living in the present.
Valedictorian Andrew Kassab reflected on his freshman year in his graduation message June 7. He remembers conditioning for soccer when the physical exertion proved to be extremely difficult. Just when he was about to give up, an upperclassman gave him the support needed to finish out his run.
"As Wildcats, we pick each other up when we fall down," Kassab said. "We keep moving forward despite whatever obstacles we might face. Seniors, before your name is read and you walk across that stage, I ask you to take a moment to reflect on some of the challenges that you faced during high school. Then, think about the people who helped you through it. I know that I would not be here today if it wasn't for the enduring love and support of my friends and teachers and for that I'm so grateful."
Family, friends, WHS staff and the community cheered on their soon-to-be graduates during the 21st commencement Thursday, June 7, at the Rolling Hills Community Church in Tualatin.
Sally Sue Cellers and Michael Cellers, grandparents of Alexa Erickson, said they were proud to see their granddaughter walk across the stage.
"It's the beginning of a whole new exciting life," said Erickson's grandmother. "She's excited to go to Pacific University. She's going to play lacrosse and she knows her roommate from Hawaii already and they've been communicating almost everyday. I think it's wonderful (because) she's really worked hard to be here and she's an honors student."
Erickson was one of 267 students to receive a diploma that evening.
And for graduates Areli Mancilla and Carolina Garcia, being able to cross that stage was an honor.
Mancilla was the first person in her immediate family — on her mom's side — to graduate high school. Garcia was the first in her family to graduate as well.
Garcia's parents came from Guadalajara, Mexico, to flee turmoil and start a new life in the U.S.
"There's this quote, 'My parents survived so that I can thrive,'' Garcia said. "For me, that's what graduation means: to be able to accomplish the things my parents weren't able to accomplish, or my brothers because they both dropped out of high school. To me, it's important because I'm the first in my family. I'm the one who my parents are relying on to improve our family vitality."
Mancilla's parents came to the U.S. from Puebla, Mexico, and for Mancilla, graduating symbolizes all the things her mom provided for her. Mancilla said she valued her open-minded experience at WHS because it allowed her to understand American culture.
"Graduating for me, it's been a big dream," Mancilla said. "Even though it's the ending, it's also a start for me to begin taking care of myself, growing as an individual."
This is what Valedictorian Brandon Kyung's speech focused on: looking toward the future.
"I was tasked with addressing you with my thoughts on the future. In other words, I'm supposed to look forward," Kyung said. "I don't have a straight answer this time. That is because the future is unclear and ever-changing. ... Instead of a definitive path I can offer something better: hope. Unfortunately, I'm going to be using math to describe it."
Kyung used a math equation that dealt with irrational and imaginary numbers to equal a simple answer: zero. He said he was perplexed by this equation yet it symbolized something to him.
"To me, (this equation) is about trusting everything will work out in the end, even if nothing seems to be going right," Kyung said. "We won't always know how or why a situation works itself out and when we inevitably find ourselves in a time of chaos and despair, I hope we can think back to (the equation) and trust that life will find a simple solution."
During the ceremony, WL-WV Superintendent Kathy Ludwig also advised students to think about their future. She advised students to register to vote and vote for something that will make a difference in their community and beyond.
"Pay attention to the values at your first job — how might you influence your colleagues to hold the type of standards you're proud to champion?" Ludwig said. "Speak up and lead with integrity. Our words have tremendous power and influence wherever we are. Become a good parent, follow an example of those who have modeled that for you (and) take pride in raising the next generation of kind, courageous and innovative thinkers."
And while students spent time reflecting on the last four years of their high school career and thinking about the next steps of their lives, Valedictorian Matthew Macovsky reminded students to enjoy the present.
"Regardless of how each of us feels, we share, in this moment, a heavy sense of finale and I think relief," said Macovsky, adding that every choice has consequences, whether positive or negative. "A sum total of our collective choices have led up to this very moment."
Before the turning of the tassels and the presentation of diplomas, Principal Dan Schumaker expressed his pride to the Class of 2018 and thanked families and all the supporters who helped get students to the stage.
"I know how much you mean to our seniors and I want to let you know how much you mean to us," he said. "Thank you Wilsonville community."