Class of 2019 Camas graduates walk the walk

More than 540 students walk in Camas High, Hayes Freedom commencement ceremonies

(Photo by Kelly Moyer/Post-Record) Camas High School class of 2019 valedictorian Monica Chang (right) gives a fist pump during a speech she and salutorian Abigail Jiang (third from left) delivered at the June 14 Camas High graduation ceremony.

(Post-Record file photo) A Camas High School Class of 2019 graduate gets help pinning on her cap during the June 2019 culminating event at Doc Harris Stadium in Camas. This year's Camas High graduates will have a virtual ceremony in June and the possibility of other culminating events later in the summer or in the fall, due to ongoing shutdowns meant to stem the spread of COVID-19.

(Photo by Doug Flanagan/Post-Record) Hayes Freedom High School class of 2019 graduate Dillon Giel-Newberry hugs secretary D.J. Johnson after receiving his diploma June 15 at a Hayes Freedom graduation ceremony held at Liberty Middle School.

(Photo by Kelly Moyer/Post-Record) Camas High School class of 2019 graduates walk into the June 14 commencement ceremony, held at Doc Harris Stadium in Camas.

(Photo by Kelly Moyer/Post-Record) One of the many decorated caps seen at the June 14 Camas High School class of 2019 graduation ceremony at Doc Harris Stadium in Camas.

(Photo by Doug Flanagan/Post-Record) Hayes Freedom High School class of 2019 graduate Darian Holmes speaks Saturday, June 15, during her high school’s graduation ceremony.

(Photo by Kelly Moyer/Post-Record) Camas High School class of 2019 graduates pose for a selfie photo with a family member at Doc Harris Stadium, before their graduation ceremony on June 14.

(Photo by Kelly Moyer/Post-Record) Camas High School class of 2019 graduates take a quick selfie photo before their graduation ceremony on June 14.

(Photo by Kelly Moyer/Post-Record) Attendees of the June 14 Camas High School class of 2019 graduation ceremony hold commencement programs to their faces to block the late afternoon sun.

(Photo by Kelly Moyer/Post-Record) Camas High School class of 2019 graduates walk into the June 14 commencement ceremony, held at Doc Harris Stadium in Camas.

(Photo by Kelly Moyer/Post-Record) One of the more clever caps seen at the June 14 Camas High School class of 2019 graduation ceremony.

(Photo by Kelly Moyer/Post-Record) The Camas High School concert band performs before the 2019 graduation ceremony, held June 14 at Doc Harris Stadium in Camas.

More than 540 Camas teens walked in their high school graduation ceremonies last weekend, marking the end of one life milestone and the beginning of many more.
“I want to remind you to know that your voice matters,” Camas High School principal Liza Sejkora told the 503 Camas High graduates gathered June 14 at Doc Harris Stadium for their class of 2019 graduation ceremony.
Sejkora launched into song after her opening statements, singing “Lean on Me” solo before asking the crowd to join in.
Afterward, Sejkora told the students to use their support systems in their post-high school life.
“As you’ve heard, one voice sounds OK but many voices sound awesome,” Sejkora told the graduates.
The June 14 ceremony was one of two Camas high school graduations held over the weekend. On Saturday, June 15, 38 Hayes Freedom High School graduates celebrated their achievements at a commencement ceremony held at Liberty Middle School.
Hayes Freedom principal Amy Holmes also spoke at her school’s ceremony, and said she had a personal connection to the Hayes Freedom class of 2019.
After reading the poem “Our Deepest Fear” by Marianne Wilson, Holmes introduced the event’s first student speaker — the principal’s daughter, Darian Holmes.
The school’s student body president for the 2018-19 school year, Darian Holmes lauded the efforts of Hayes Freedom staff members in her commencement speech.
“High school can be an amazing time, but it’s also stressful, confusing and frustrating,” she said. “We were pushed to do our best work by our principal and teachers, even when we fought back, because they saw the potential in us, even when we didn’t.”
Camas High’s valedictorian and salutatorian for the class of 2019 — Monica Chang and Abigail Jiang — delivered a commencement address at the Friday graduation ceremony that was equal parts humorous and serious and recalled “moments and memories” from their time at Camas High.
The girls got more than a few whoops and cheers from their peers when they mentioned a 2018 walkout organized by Chang that showed solidarity with the students at Parkland High School in Florida, which was, at that time, the most recent site of a mass school shooting. Highlighting the changes they’ve seen in their own lifetimes — “less than four years ago, marriage equality didn’t exist” — Chang and Jiang encouraged their peers to “be the change you wish to see in the world” and thanked the teachers and administrators at Camas High for teaching students to think critically.
“Each of our teachers was a change-maker in their own right,” Chang said.
Camas School District Superintendent Jeff Snell attended both graduation ceremonies and talked about the greatness of Camas students.
At the end of the Hayes Freedom ceremony on Saturday, Snell said the Hayes students “truly are amazing, with limitless potential and promise.”
“There were times that required patience,” he said. “There were times that required (them) to lean on others, like the amazing staff at Hayes and all of their wonderful family and friends.”
Watching the Hayes Freedom students grow and develop a “kind, fearless, proud” spirit over the course of their high school careers, Snell said, “gives us all great hope for our future.”
“Hopefully they will impart that renegade spirit on the rest of the world,” he added.
The Camas High graduation proved to be a popular event, with hundreds of friends and family members lined up around the blocks surrounding Doc Harris Stadium more than two hours before the 7 p.m. ceremony got underway.
The Saturday Hayes Freedom ceremony was a much smaller affair, much like the school, which features smaller class sizes and more flexibility for students than a traditional high school.
“Before I came to Hayes I didn’t want anything to do with school. I was tired of school,” said Hayes Freedom class of 2019 graduate Dylan Knutson. “(Hayes Freedom) is a lot smaller of a school, and the teachers actually cared. They really help you out and encourage you each and every day. It’s like each day is a new beginning. They don’t think you’re a bad kid for anything that you’ve done in the past. They just continue to say, ‘I love you.’”
Knutson described the feeling of receiving his diploma as “the greatest (he’s) ever felt.”
“I literally almost cried,” he said. “It inspired me a lot. It was an undeniable feeling that I wouldn’t have been able to have anywhere else.”