Class of 2014, are you ready?

Local students lauded for overcoming struggles and using their talents

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The weekend was full of festivities as graduates from local high schools received their hard-earned diplomas. Students of varying backgrounds and accomplishments celebrated as family, friends and teachers looked on. The following is a collection of stories from the various commencement ceremonies.

Papermakers celebrate their accomplishments

By Danielle Frost, Post-Record

Excitement and anticipation filled the air as the Camas High School class of 2014 began commencement ceremonies Friday evening.

Rain showers, which had been coming down on and off all day, stopped for good just a few hours before festivities at Doc Harris Stadium.

“The class of 2014 is one that is unlike any other,” said Kathleen Brumfield, class president. “This is a class made up of extraordinary and accomplished scholars, artists, athletes and so much more. The graduates here have excelled as individuals, but have also come together to contribute to the success that we have had as a whole.”

Principal Steve Marshall echoed that theme, noting that the senior class was very balanced and high achieving in diverse areas.

“I often get asked how classes stack up and here’s what I think…this might just be the best class I have seen graduate from Camas High School,” he said.

Marshall described this group as “smart, athletic, caring and successful.”

“The message is this: Camas High School is abnormal, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, I am talking about abnormal in the exceptional sense of the word. But I think this abnormality must also come with a sense of appreciation, humility and a responsibility for the future.”

Marshall then highlighted the numerous accomplishments of this year’s group of Papermakers, including going to the state football finals, winning four straight Science Olympiad state championships, making the state finals for Knowledge Bowl four years in a row, four trips to the international robotics competition, three Washington Achievement Awards, seven National Merit Scholar finalists and more than $9 million in scholarships.

He added that this year, every CHS sport finished near the top of the league under the senior leadership.

“You are lucky to have been a Papermaker, and CHS is lucky to have had you,” Marshall said.

Valedictorian Xinyang Chen, and salutatorians Timothy Liu and Yushuan Peng combined forces to deliver the commencement address, a humorous take on how the game of Pokemon relates to life after high school.

“As Pokemon evolve, they evolve into something greater than what they were before,” Chen said.

Added Liu, “However strong a Pokemon is, they all have their weaknesses.”

Peng concluded with, “Above all, remember to be the very best and that no one ever wins alone.”

Teacher Greg MacGowen said what he would remember most about the class was its many achievements.

“You have bloomed and blossomed pretty big, and I will miss you when you go,” he said. “I marvel at the courage, determination and perseverance you have shown.”

Renegades prepare to take the next step

By Heather Acheson, Post-Record staff

Dressed in their bright green caps and gowns, Hayes Freedom High School seniors patiently sat in the audience. Surrounded in the stands by family and friends, they anxiously awaited the chance to walk across the stage and get their hands on the diplomas that have been so hard fought and won.

“All right Renegades, are you ready?” Superintendent Mike Nerland asked in his signature resonant voice. “Parents, are you ready?”

These questions were answered enthusiastically with whoops, hollers and cheers.

Yes, they were all certainly ready.

At Liberty Middle School on Saturday afternoon, 34 students earned their high school diplomas as part of the

Hayes Freedom High School graduating class of 2014. The ceremony highlighted the specialized Camas school’s many unique attributes.

It lists as its mission to “provide an educational culture that supports learning and growth, is intentional, connects with the community, and is reflective. The curriculum and instruction gives opportunity, direction for a new beginning and hope to every student.”

Panthers’ graduation ceremony is filled with appreciation

By Dawn Feldhaus, Post-Record staff writer

The commencement ceremony for the 100th Washougal High School graduating class included laughter, tears and a bit of rain.

The festivities began with students entering Fishback Stadium, two at a time, greeting each other with hugs, high-fives and handshakes. Creative moves included moments of leap frog and square dancing.

Many students chose to accent their graduation gowns with leis made of flowers, currency or candy.

Seniors who will serve in the military were acknowledged in front of the crowd, as members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4278 presented the national colors and the WHS band performed the National Anthem.

WHS Principal Aaron Hansen acknowledged the retirements of teachers Bruce Stanton, Barbara Samojedny and Kathy Loney.

A moment of silence was held, in honor of Washougal School District faculty members who have died within the past year — Susan Champion, Cheryl Trent and Tom Hays.

Acknowledging the families and friends who have supported the seniors was mentioned in several speeches through the night.

Hansen encouraged the 183 graduates to set their goals high.

“Be courageous in everything you do,” he said.

Valedictorian Mackenzie Pfeifer encouraged her classmates to never forget where they came from.

Valedictorian Hannah Wright acknowledged her family, friends and favorite teachers and coach.

Valedictorian Brendon Brown good-naturedly encouraged classmates to make mistakes.

“Parents make mistakes, and some of us are here,” he said, as some audience members expressed shock and laughter at Brown’s comment.

Salutatorian Ashley Oakes recommended the members of the class of 2014 find their passion.

She also paid tribute to Washougal.

“I challenge you to find another town where Safeway is a local hangout,” Oakes said.

“Attitude is really everything,” she added.

Salutatorian Sydney Hickey talked about seniors having pride and school spirit.

“Isn’t it great to think some of the best days of our lives haven’t even happened yet,” she concluded.

Senior Class President Christina Zack said, “Washougal is a family,” before she acknowledged WHS employees — from the principal and teachers to the janitors, lunch ladies and front office staff.

“I am grateful for your constant persistence,” she said. “I am proud to be a Panther.”

The senior class chose social studies teacher Jim Reed to give the commencement address.

He challenged each student to spend time alone.

“Define your value,” Reed said. “Attract people who are hungry and passionate about what they do.

“Invest in you,” he added. “You do not have to go through life as a victim. I want you to represent possibilities.”

Washougal Mayor Sean Guard, a member of the WHS Class of 1980, presented citizenship awards to Adrienne Leon and Nikayla Banks. The awards were voted on by the school’s staff.

Isaiah Harris received the ‘Bootstrap Award,’ which is given to individuals who have overcome obstacles during their high school careers.

The ‘Orange & Black’ award was presented to Michelle Greear.

After students received their diploma cases, they moved the tassels on their graduation caps from right to left. Hansen issued a few more words of encouragement, before the graduates threw their caps into the air.

After the ceremony, some supporters of the new Panther alumni offered roses, balloons and hugs, as they participated in photo opportunities on the stadium’s field. Backdrops included the large “W” on the 50 yard line.

Graduates then had 30 minutes to scurry and get ready to be transported to an all-night drug- and alcohol-free graduation party at the Family Fun Center, in Wilsonville, Ore.

Excelsior students ‘rise from the ashes’

By Heather Acheson, Post-Record staff

Twenty-seven Excelsior High School students walked across Washburn Performing Arts Center stage during graduation ceremonies Friday afternoon.

Each one had the opportunity to thank those who got them there.

Responses ranged from the sentimental: parents, teachers, siblings, friends, boyfriends and girlfriends, sons and daughters. As well as the humorous: Google, cut and paste, and Red Bull energy drinks.

“You did what you had to do, and you are all now graduates of the class of 2014,” said Principal Carol Boyden, in her first Excelsior commencement address. “I am so proud of you, and of the staff that got you here.”

English and social studies teacher Ali Miller described the staff as “bursting with pride” when it comes to its feelings about the class of 2014.

“The group of young people standing before you is an undeniably remarkable mix of creativity, curiosity, intelligence and artistic ability, not to be underestimated because they have chosen a path less taken to reach this milestone.”

She encouraged them to recognize their unique talents.

“You are a fabulous group of amazing people,” she said. “Go out and light up this world as only you can.”

Registrar Michelle Rutherford credited the students with putting in hard work necessary to graduate, and staff for helping to steer their course.

“Some of our students have come from some very difficult backgrounds,” she said. “Others are overcoming obstacles they created for themselves. Some are still going through the trials of life. But they are all ‘overcomers’ through their hard work and perseverance. They are truly inspiring to the adults who work with them.”

One of those inspirational students is Casey Volgmann. Rutherford said that since middle school, Volgmann has been plagued with life-altering events including illness, family issues, moving homes frequently and a serious car accident.

At the beginning of her senior year in September, Volgmann had earned only 13 credits. She was able to earn the required 23 by June through “encouragement, motivation and determination.”

“All of these ladies are like my second mom,” Volgmann said through tears as she looked toward Excelsior staff that filled the stage. “They push me forward, encourage me, they help me through my hard times. Thank you guys so much.”