Students thank school at Spectrum graduation

SUQUAMISH — One by one, the graduating seniors thanked their classmates, their teachers, and their school.

One student handed out gifts to trusted teachers. Another simply said “Thank you,” pressed both palms against her lips, and blew a kiss to the crowd.

Maybe senior Tyee Lawrence said it all.

After quietly thanking his teachers and friends, he leaned into the microphone that was set up in the Suquamish Tribal Center gym and said, “Spectrum rules!”

For Spectrum Community School, which started 17 years ago with only 18 students, Friday night’s graduation was proof of Lawrence’s statement.

The school graduated 44 seniors and the gym was packed with relatives, siblings, and friends, some of whom piled into the basketball-style bleachers in the back of the room to watch.

As always, the evening started with music. Some of the school’s drummers played a pair of songs, accompanied by their teacher, Principal Chris Wendelyn.

The drummers were drowned out halfway through the second song when the graduates entered and the cheers started.

The main speech was given by Steven Old Coyote, who was an advocate for the school before its birth and a volunteer with its students for many years.

He addressed his first words to the graduates more than the crowd.

He turned towards the students and said, “I don’t think there’s a word that could tell me what I felt in here,” — and he gestured towards his heart — “when I saw you all walk in here.”

That line drew applause, as did his words on the value of education, the responsibility that adults have towards children, and the future of the 40-plus graduates sitting in folding chairs just a few feet away.

“Don’t let anybody, or anything, control your destiny,” Old Coyote said. “Dream your dreams and follow them.”

Next came 10 student speakers, including Lawrence, all of whom thanked the school and its staff for what it’s done for them.

“You’ve meant so much to me,” said Aireana Owen. “You guys have totally renewed my faith in public schools.”

Kris Bray said, “it’s changed me in so many ways. It’s more of a family than a school.”

The school named its four students of the year: Josie Markwick, Patrick Martin, Kristen Ferguson, and Luigi VanAelston.

Finally it was time to present the seniors.

Every year, Wendelyn writes out a few personal remarks on each seniors He talked about one student’s ability at music, and how it found expression in Richard Pullen’s guitar class; another, he said, would pursue art and auto mechanics in college. (Wendelyn then wondered aloud whether artists should be allowed to work on cars.)

Often, the principal thanked the students as much as they had thanked him. Of Sally Stoddard he said, “She wants to become a teacher. To us, she already is a teacher in many ways.”

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