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NK graduation a time for reflection

POULSBO — When searching for inspiration for his fellow graduates, North Kitsap High co-valedictorian Nate May looked to a prolific philosopher: Andy Samberg of "Saturday Night Live."

"Don't forget to take a break once in a while," May said during commencement exercises Saturday. "Pull out your swim trunks and your flippy floppies. You deserve it."

It was a day for reflection in more ways than one as nearly 300 North Kitsap High School seniors received diplomas at the brightly sunlit North Kitsap Stadium.

Seated on the white platform that covered the stadium's new field turf, a number of students donned sunglasses, some in the shape of the number 2009 in celebration of their special day.

"The class of 2009 has weathered many storms, but also seen some sunny times," NKHS principal Kathy Prasch said during the welcome address.

There were more spectators than seats for the June ceremony. Family, friends and well-wishers spilled out onto the track, where many stood to capture photos and applaud the purple-clad graduates.

In addition to the 290 graduating seniors, North Kitsap High School awarded two honorary diplomas to Kyle Sizemore and Tsugiko Takasaki. Sizemore was robbed of his rite of passage four years ago as a junior, when he was a passenger in a drunk driving collision that took his life. His parents, Tom and Nora Sizemore, accepted the diploma on their son's behalf.

Takasaki was born in Japan and moved to Kingston as a child. She attended North during the early 1940s, but was taken to an internment camp in California near the end of her junior year and was not released until she was 18. According to her daughter, Shari Bjorn, Takasaki regretted being unable to graduate with her class or attend reunions over the years.

"She is a strong woman and is definitely a survivor," Prasch said. "She has survived three bouts with cancer and a recent stroke. It is time to include this shy but determined woman in a North Kitsap High School graduation ceremony."

Salutatorian Rose Bissonnette made a thought-provoking observation in a speech of her own.

"Some of the most important life skills you learned... were not learned from textbooks but from the people beside you," she said.

After taking a short break to bounce beach balls and an inflatable monkey over their heads, the graduates turned their tassels and marched out to greet their loved ones.

"I'm going to miss some of these guys," said Kyle Erickson as he rounded up a group of buddies for a post-graduation photo. "Those will be the strongest memories: just me and my friends."

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