If Arts and Technology High School teacher Philip Clark could only bring three things to a desert island, he said he would bring three Isaac Thompsons.
Thompson is one of 24 students to receive a diploma Wednesday night.
"He is the student who continually makes me smile and laugh; he is the student I can trust," Clark said. "He's the graduate who will succeed. I'm going to miss you Isaac."
Thompson wasn't the only Art Tech graduate to receive special recognition. Teachers and staff paid each of the 24 graduates a special tribute during graduation at The Gregory Forum June 5 at Clackamas Community College's Oregon City campus.
"I have been inspired by your tenacity, your hard work, your ability to conquer the things that can hold you back to be successful," Whitehead said. "Don't ever let anybody say you can't do it in music, or anything in life, because you can. You have proved it to me and all the teachers and everybody else here."
When academic counselor Tammie Lewis gave her tribute to Zhanna Miller, she became choked up speaking about Miller's determination, dedication and resiliency.
"Zhanna never backed down from the challenges she encountered this year, whether academic or personal. She has a tremendous amount of courage and a love for learning," Lewis said. "There's a very fitting quote by Elizabeth Edwards, another woman who faced many trials in her life: 'She stood in the storm and when the wind did not blow her away, she adjusted her sails.' This is exactly how Zhanna has faced the various battles in her life."
Before students turned their tassels, marking the end of a significant chapter of their lives, West Linn-Wilsonville Superintendent Kathy Ludwig made an analogy between The Oregon Trail computer game and the students' trek into the real world.
"The participants did learn about the historic trail in an engaging way but they also learned important dispositions and mindsets that we could apply to the real world," Ludwig said. "For example, in the game you're presented with realistic roadblocks or challenges and you must decide what to do next to make it safely to your destination. Similarly in our real world, we are presented with challenges that require critical thinking, trial and error, adaptability and resilience. … Today you may not die of dysentery but pushing ahead so fast and furious in life does have its consequences. In the real world, decisions in life have implications and impacts."
Ludwig encouraged students to create their own narrative and learn through their decisions.
WL-WV School Board Chair Ginger Fitch and Principal Saskia Dresler also gave powerful speeches that spoke to the character of the students.
"To each and everyone of you, you've reached this graduation day after following your own path and sometimes forging your own way," Dresler said. "You have shaped your hopes and dreams for the future, set goals and high expectations, worked hard, overcome obstacles, embraced the Art Tech community, worked with the teachers and staff and lastly, you believed in yourself, even when success and maybe graduation might have seemed really far off."
.For Allan Mohr, father of graduate Michael Mohr, seeing the youngest of his five children walk across the stage was bittersweet.
"(I'm) just thankful for Art Tech and the people at Art Tech — the faculty, the other students," he said. "It really helped Michael achieve the goal, and it was a goal."
Similarly, Kristian Eslinger's mother, Carrie, sat proudly in the audience to see her fourth child graduate.
"His sisters all graduated early from high school and then went on to college, or do whatever they're doing, so he's actually the first one to walk at high school graduation so it's pretty exciting," Eslinger said, adding that her son plans to go to a technical college next year.
"Nelson Mandela once said: 'It always seems impossible until it's done,' and that may be how it felt sometimes but you stayed strong and you did it," Dresler said during her speech. "Life is ahead of you, full of lessons and we know you'll keep learning and we also know that you'll use your learning to do good for yourself, your family and your community."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.