Never underestimate the power of a simple act of kindness.
That was a theme which echoed through the Excelsior High School commencement Friday.
Twenty-one students received their diplomas Friday, many of them through circumstances few could imagine.
Principal Carol Boyden encouraged the newly minted graduates to practice kindness in their words and actions.
“I don’t want you to ever underestimate the power of your actions,” she said. “All of them will have positive or negative consequences. You can bring positive energy into this world if you choose to do so. I am so proud of you and your accomplishments.”
Several teachers, mentors and students spoke during the commencement at the Washburn Performing Arts Center, some breaking into tears of joy.
School volunteer Patti Roberts was selected as the class speaker for the class of 2015.
“What I have to say simply is this: Look in the mirror and value the person you see, every day. You will make lots of mistakes, but these will make you stronger and show you how to truly live this life. Every time you get back up and take one more step forward, you are closer to your goal. And always be kind.”
The Phoenix Award was given to Sabrina Schell.
“It is the first time we have given out this award, and it given to a student who is very strong and shows character,” Boyden said.
The Cheryl Trent Memorial Scholarship, named for a Washougal School District employee who died of cancer, was given to Mahaylley Grimani-Jones.
“Cheryl was the kind of woman who loved all kids and never had a bad day,” Boyden said. “If you asked her how things were going, she would say, ‘I am hunky-dory as long as you don’t look too closely or ask too much!'”
She continued, “This $500 scholarship is for a student who struggled but decided to move forward with their life. ”
Superintendent Dawn Tarzian was in attendance to confirm the class of 2015.
“I have tremendous respect for these young people and for the adults who helped them,” she said. “Congratulations, Excelsior High School class of 2015.”
Several students made brief speeches after accepting their diploma. Friends, loved ones and teachers were thanked, and Gordon Washburn, retiring associate principal of Washougal High School, was wished well by most every student who spoke.
“Wow, this doesn’t even seem real,” graduate Jesse Peterson said. “I want to thank everyone who gave me the opportunity to be here. It has been a long road. And Mr. Washburn, I hope you have a great retirement!”