The Camas-Washougal high school graduation season kicked off Saturday, as hundreds of orange-and-black clad well-wishers crowded into Fishback Stadium to watch Washougal High School’s class of 2019 receive their high school diplomas.
The class had one of the highest graduation rates in school history, with nearly 90 percent of seniors graduating, including 211 students who walked at the June 8 ceremony and a few more who will receive diplomas after completing summer school.
Increasing the graduation rate has long been a goal for outgoing Washougal High Principal Aaron Hansen.
“Last year we had a graduation rate of 84 percent, which was among the highest rates in the past 17 years, but we believe we are going to get 90 percent for the class of 2019,” Hansen told the crowd gathered for the June 8 graduation ceremony — Hansen’s last commencement speech as the school’s principal. The principal was recently promoted to an assistant superintendent position for the Washougal School District.
“This has been one of the finest years I’ve ever experienced in my current role, and I give a lot of credit to the class of 2019 for their energy, enthusiasm, care, leadership, high level of participation and commitment,” Hansen said.
The class of 2019’s four valedictorians represent many of those qualities. Valedictorians Beyonce Bea, Ryan Davy, Amelia Pullen and Paige Wilson all carried a 4.0 grade point average and three graduated with an associates degree thanks to their participation in the “Running Start” program at Clark College.
The valedictorians also represented the best of the school’s student-athletes, with all four placing or winning state athletic tournaments during their senior year.
Bea led the Panther basketball team to its first 2A state championship and also placed fifth in the 2A state tennis tournament with her doubles partner and fellow valedictorian, Paige Wilson. Bea and Wilson’s finish was the best in the school’s tennis history. Pullen is the school’s first female 2A state cross country champion, and Ryan Davy anchored the 2A state track and field championship-winning 4×100 relay team.
During her commencement address, Wilson reminded her classmates of the great ride they had taken over the past four years and urged younger students to get involved in the high school opportunities outside the classroom.
“It can be scary to put yourself out there, but honestly I met some of my best friends in situations that I was skeptical of at first,” Wilson said in her commencement speech.
She finished by saying she hoped her peers would worry less about what other people thought of them.
“It’s way more fun if you just be yourself,” Wilson said.
Bea started her speech by thanking the Washougal community for supporting her from the time she was a little girl.
“I’m privileged to be the third generation of my family to graduate from Washougal High School. I have been surrounded by kind and encouraging people who truly wanted you to succeed,” Bea said, before giving individual shout-outs to Forest Seagraves and Trula Anderson, who traveled to all of the Washougal girls basketball games this season, and to the youngsters who asked for autographs after Bea and her team returned home with the state championship trophy on Feb. 28.
Bea also spoke about the journey she and her classmates have been on over the past four years.
“The class is full of individuals who display respect, determination and excellence both in and out of the classroom, which to me is the definition of first class,” Bea said. “You are first class in a class of firsts.”
Washougal High’s senior class president for the class of 2019, Kenny Kanthak, thanked his classmates for supporting each other during their time at Washougal High.
“You have the opportunity to go down any path now. Pursue your dreams. There’s nothing stopping you,” Kanthak said.
Washougal High senior class advisor Kathy Scobba delivered the commencement address, telling graduates about the importance of preparing for life after high school.
“It’s important to focus on what’s important — the things you know you need to be successful — and work on them until you feel good about who you are,” Scobba said.
The ceremony also included several award presentations.
Madilynn Ashe and Kayla Woods-Radford won the Bootstrap Award, which goes to students who have overcome adversity during their young lives. Woods-Radford, for example, is the first person in her family to graduate from high school.
The annual Black and White Award, presented to the person who had the most school spirit, went to Dylan Van Horn.
After diplomas had been handed out and photographs taken, the school surprised its outgoing principal with an honorary diploma.
“Thank you so much for all you have taught me,” Hansen said as the graduates from Washougal’s class of 2019 turned their tassels. “I look forward to hearing about your adventures.”