Graduation ranges from silly to solemn

POULSBO — High school graduation is meant to showcase student achievement.

But for at least a few minutes on the sweltering-hot track at North Kitsap High School on Saturday, it was the staff who got to show off their ingenuity.

After years of being plagued by students’ batting of beach balls during the ceremony, teachers at Saturday’s affair carried out a creative solution: During a pre-arranged time in the ceremony they removed large, multicolored beach balls from below their folding chairs and tossed them joyfully into the air.

A short party complete with dancing and Silly String attacks followed.

It was a new element to the graduation, but it wasn’t the only one. The shorter-than-usual ceremony, which lasted an hour and a half, was notable for several reasons, including a record number of valedictorians and salutatorians, a moment of silence for a dead classmate and the final ceremony for Principal Dave Andersen.

Andersen, who is stepping down this season after 14 years, complemented the academic achievements of the 2003 class, noting the high number of salutatorians (four, the most ever) and valedictorians (five, also the most ever).

“It’s been a class with class,” said Andersen.

One of those valedictorians, Kolby Hoover, spoke during the ceremony, comparing the transition from high school to the transition from an athlete’s practice to performance.

“You are starting your own race in your own lane,” Hoover said. “Your parents don’t like it, but like coaches, their influence is disappearing.”

Hoover warned students that, like any sporting event, their plans won’t be carried out without obstacles — a fact the state-level hurdler knows well.

“Sometimes your own feet will trip you up,” he said.

A few minutes after Hoover finished, the class and families present took a moment of silence to remember senior Zachary Shaeffer, whose suicide earlier this year saddened and shocked his classmates and friends.

Andersen released a balloon during the moment of silence, and the wind carried it back over the school.

Soon the 396 graduating seniors were having their names called and were walking across the stage to pick up diplomas, sometimes accompanied by the sounds of shouts, cheers and the occasional air horn.

Parents watched from under the cooling overhang of the stadium and, in some cases, umbrellas to block them from the sun.

Afterward, students, friends and families gathered on the football field for pictures and congratulations. Students were enjoying the moment, but some of them were already looking forward to the future.

“Things are probably getting more serious but I’m going to try to keep it fun,” said Sean Heins.

“It’s a big feeling, a big accomplishment,” said Andrew Holt.

He was looking forward to more big moments, saying of the just-completed ceremony, “It’s a big step now but a small step in life.”

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