WHS Panthers are encouraged to persevere

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Brendan Casey (left) and Zac Schepp pose for a photo while waiting for festivities to begin.

With 180 graduates, approximately $700,000 in scholarships and a few technical glitches, the Washougal High School class of 2011 proudly ended its high school career Saturday night at Fishback Stadium.

The sun shone brightly as valedictorian Darcy Akers encouraged her classmates to look toward the future.

“I don’t know what the future holds, but I hope you are all looking forward to the possibilities,” she said. “Most of all, thanks to the friends. Best friends are hard to find, harder to leave and even harder to forget. Thanks for being there, whether we’re flying or falling.”

Salutatorian Patrick McCarthy talked about the benefits of living and going to school in a small community.

“You know all of your classmates, and probably have several intimate friends,” he said. “It’s our sense of community that makes this a time to remember.”

Kelly Young and Emma Harris sang the class song, “Whenever you remember.” Although the sound system went out midway through the performance, the girls went the distance and finished the piece.

As staff scrambled around trying to find 400 feet of extension cord to hook up a microphone, teacher Brian Amundson delivered the commencement address via a loudspeaker.

“Try to be better than what you are now,” he said. “Have integrity, selflessness and grit. If you think you can do anything, you can. Persevere. Good job and best of luck in the future.”

A touching moment came when retired school resource officer Tom Davis presented the “Bootstrap Award.” It is given to the student who has overcome adversity to graduate on time. This year’s award was given to Kiersta Moore, a teen mom whose story was featured in the Post-Record in April.

“I really wasn’t expecting this,” she said, tears streaming down her face. “I love you guys.”

And right before the graduates walked up on stage to receive their diplomas, with the sun setting and wind picking up, Superintendent Teresa Baldwin encouraged them to follow their dreams.

“Dream big, come back and brag about your progress,” she said.

“We will be here to hear your stories.”