Viking grads turn 2004 tassels

POULSBO — North Kitsap High School senior Sarah Mostofi said good-bye Saturday to the school she’s attended for the past three years. But on the very same day, she was looking forward — albeit with some nerves — to the future that lies ahead.

“It took a lot of hard work and discipline to get here,” said Mostofi, one of six valedictorians in the NKHS Class of 2004. “It’s scary but you’ve got to grow up and go out of the nest.”

She, like many of the 350 students who graduated from NKHS last Saturday, will leave that proverbial nest and set off on an entirely new journey, be it furthering their education or beginning a career.

For Mostofi, it means crossing Puget Sound, renting a house and starting school at the University of Washington, where she said she’s planning to study business finance. Life will certainly change — and graduation culminates that change, she said.

“A chapter of our lives is over,” Mostofi commented, “and it’s time to grow up.”

The June 12 graduation ceremony formally declared the group’s exit from high school and a chance to turn the tassel into the next step in their lives.

Principal Roy Herrera, who moved from New Mexico to Washington last year, took part in his first graduation Saturday and started his address by thanking those who have taught the seniors over the years.

“This thank you is to salute you for a job well done,” Herrera said to the teachers. “The work you’ve put in is immeasurable.”

Herrera also had each of the students identify which of North Kitsap’s seven elementary schools they attended. Forgetting to mention Wolfle gave way to shouting the school’s name — which the principal heard, and then included.

The senior choir also gave one final performance of The Beatles’ song, “The Long and Winding Road,” before the valedictorian’s speeches. The six valedictorians — all of whom had a 4.0 grade point average — were the largest group ever for North Kitsap High School, Herrera said. But only two of the valedictorians spoke at the graduation — Anthony Jones and Spencer Thomas.

Thomas’ speech focused on a “backpack for life.” The senior, who will attend the University of Washington next year, brought a random assortment of symbolic items — from a pineapple to MC Hammer pants — to display different characteristics he hopes the Class of 2004 will take with them.

Referring to the early ‘90s rapper’s trousers, Thomas explained: “Don’t be afraid to be yourself.” Sunglasses represented “the dangers of life,” he continued, and an umbrella was to remind graduates to be compassionate in life. Thomas also used a wig to symbolize his mother’s three-year battle with cancer, telling the Class of 2004, “never fail to give to those who need.”

“It’s not what you have,” Thomas added, “but what you do with what you have.”

With that, he ended his speech with what became the senior class’ rallying cry — “‘04, FO SHO!”

During the school band’s final performance of the year, at least a half dozen beach balls began to float about the graduating class. The primary instigators appeared to be the NKHS administration, namely vice-principal Susan Wistrand, who revived the balls above the heads of the students when they would drift onto the adjacent field.

To add to the entertainment value of the event, Jones performed Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” on his acoustic guitar.

“It reminds us that we shouldn’t fear the future but embrace it,” said Jones, who will attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology next year.

The other valedictorians — though they didn’t get a chance to speak at graduation — said they were also excited for the future.

Valedictorian Michelle Stitzer mentioned it was an end of one journey and the start of another.

“It’s the end of my childhood,” said Stitzer, who plans to study biology at the University of Washington. “Now, I get to go on and make what I can with the rest of my life.”

Valedictorian Zach Williams said he was most excited to get out into the world and take “the next step.”

“I’m finally out of high school and going to be on my own soon,” said Williams, who is headed for Seattle Pacific University in the fall. “I’ve waited my entire life and I think I’m pretty ready by now.”

Valedictorian Jeff Ryan said he, too, is ready for the journey ahead but looks fondly on his past in North Kitsap, especially at the teachers who have made him the person he is today.

“It’s the special teachers you have that make the difference,” Ryan said. “And it’s the little things teachers do that make (the experience) fun.”

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