‘Let’s take on the world’

Jun 17, 2021 | Front Page

By Mary-Justine Lanyon

It was a blustery celebration – that describes the weather, not the speeches.

The wind blew so ferociously that many caps went flying and one of the graduation arbors toppled over.

Before the 185 students graduating from Rim of the World High School received their diplomas – some arriving in cars, others seated on the field and at least one virtually – Principal Torri Burke addressed the students and their families. She was followed by the valedictorian and three salutatorians.

Noting that she did not want to spend time talking about how difficult the past year was, Burke thanked the parents for their patience and grace. She expressed her gratitude to the teachers, who could have walked away but stayed and supported the students. “They adapted, supported the social and mental well-being of our students,” Burke said.

The graduating seniors, she noted, “are some of the most inspirational people I’ve met. I have no clue what I can say to inspire these students as they have inspired me. I am sincerely grateful for these students,” Burke said, choking up.

“Being my first year as principal, I often asked myself if this was the job for me. But I haven’t asked myself that question since we returned to campus. Thank you to the students for bringing joy back to campus.

“If I have learned anything in this past year,” Burke said, “it’s to be grateful – for health, for the small everyday things like coming to school, having lunch in the cafeteria. We have seen how easily these things can be taken away.

“Wherever your next journey takes you, take a few moments every day to remember the things you are grateful for. I’m beyond proud of all of you and forever grateful to be a small part of your journey.”

Burke then introduced Valedictorian Nathan Hidajat. “Well, guys – we survived! We persevered through a global pandemic. All of us grew academically. Some of us grew literally, emotionally. We built lifelong friendships.

“We should be proud of what we accomplished,” Nathan said. “We managed to sleep through entire classes and graduated.” He thanked Dr. Crofoot for “making my life a living hell with all those chemistry tests.

Quoting from Kung Fu Panda, Nathan reminded everyone that “today is a gift, that’s why it’s called the present.” We may be uncertain about what the future holds for us, he told his classmates, “but let’s remember to live in the present. Do the things the fuel us and strive to better ourselves.

“Our generation is faced with global health problems. While good grades are cool, our positive impact on the world is what’s most important. Let’s take things one step at a time. Let’s hold our heads high.

“Let’s take on the world, Class of 2021!”

Two of the three salutatorians chose to give their speech together. Donnie Clarke and Ryan Whitty bantered back and forth, admitting that, after staying out of school for over 12 months, “eventually you start to miss it, even dealing with terrible early mornings.”

Donnie and Ryan recognized their families and their sixth-grade teacher, Mr. Soderholm. “That class to this day was the most fun,” they said, adding that three of the four top students were in the same table group and were called “the Brainy Bunch.”

Dr. Crofoot, they noted, teaches several of the hardest classes at Rim “but makes them fun and understandable.” They thanked Mrs. Stebbing for making the band program “an amazing experience for all of us” and pointed to the chess club as an important part of their high school career. “He who doesn’t like chess either doesn’t know the rules or is lying for some reason,” they said.

“Thank you to our peers for giving us the most fun and, yes, the oddest high school experience,” Donnie and Ryan said. They joked that their college mascots – both bears from UCLA and UC Berkeley – would beat up Nathan’s Stanford tree.

“We’re heading off to different places. We hope everyone remembers this beautiful place we came from,” the two said. Quoting from SpongeBob SquarePants, they asked, “Can I be excused for the rest of my life?

“Unfortunately, he couldn’t and neither can we. Our lives are just beginning. We wish you all the best in whatever you hope to accomplish. Go Bruins, go Bears, go Scots!”

“There is one word for our class: resilient,” said the third salutatorian, Owen Kelly. “Look at all we went through in the past year. We survived murder hornets – remember them? Tik Tok has taken over our lives. Half the state was on fire. And there was the obvious big news: Tiger King (which drew laughter).

“This past year and a half has pushed us to our limits. We lost almost all our social interaction. We lost some relationships, built others. We got by. And here we are, graduating high school together,” Owen said.

He urged his classmates to “loosen up, enjoy life, build relationships, break the rules for once.” Owen noted that his biggest learning experience was in football. He thanked Coach Jurado for teaching him and his teammates to be responsible, disciplined, to work hard and, above all, to be respectful.

“There is more to life and learning than a grade,” Owen said. “The most important lessons are from life itself. Chase your goals, work hard but, most importantly, enjoy life and build your character. Build the best version of yourself.”

Owen ended with his favorite quote: “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take,” said by Wayne Gretsky and quoted by character Michael Scott in The Office.

Diplomas were then awarded to the students, first to the 109 participating in the drive-through events and then the 74 attending in person.

Many of the cars were decorated with congratulatory messages and balloons. The students got out of the cars at the end of the track and walked up through one of the arbors. Parents and other family members were able to exit their cars to take photos. The new graduates got back into the cars and drove away.

The graduands seated on the field then walked through the two arbors, receiving their diplomas from senior class advisors Kristil Cobb and Amanda Markovich.

Many students had decorated their caps with flowers, the names of the colleges they will be attending, photos of friends and family and even a crown.

And many wore leis made of flowers or paper. Sashes indicated their participation in AVID or the National Honor Society. Other sashes proclaimed their intention to join the Army, the Army National Guard or the Navy.

Some students sauntered up the ramp to receive their diplomas. Others ran and one even skipped.

Once all diplomas had been awarded, Lia Ojeda, president of the Class of 2021, and Daisy Ethridge, vice president, led their classmates in the turning of their tassels. Tradition held as a few students tossed their caps, signaling the end of their high school career.

The Alpine Mountaineer wishes all the graduates the very best as they pursue careers, military service or continue their education in trade schools or colleges and universities.



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