At graduation Friday, the village gained its due.
In keeping with the adage that it takes a village to raise a child, all who bolstered the young men and women of the Class of 2003 earned credit on the night when the 249 graduates received their diplomas.
“Now you are letting us walk on our own,” senior Ryan Kawachi said to parents in his welcoming remarks to the 1,500 people gathered under the bright sun in three sets of grandstands and chairs on the football field. “To the teachers: I know we are all going to miss you a great deal,” Kawachi said. “You have taught us respect and intelligence and we have so much when we think of you.
“To students: don’t look back with regrets. Look forward to knowing you can make a difference.”
It was a night when one man who made a big difference at his alma mater, Gary Fisher, earned the annual Volunteer of the Year award from HRVHS, for rallying community donations and the work needed to complete Eagle Project 2003, a new plaza and restroom facility that opened at the north end of Henderson Stadium just in time for the ceremony.
“I am just so proud of this entire community,” Fisher said.
Ten valedictorians were recognized for their 4.0 grade point averages through the past four years: Carly Cannell, Daniel Chance, Jasmine Cohen, Jodie Gates, Lauren Gaulke, Elise Meierbachtol, Rebecca Meierbachtol, Ashley Nunamaker, Corinne Oates, and Christy Paul.
“The teachers make them work really hard to get that perfect grade,” said co-principal Martha Capovilla, who also paid tribute to the contributions of many people in getting every graduate through 13 years of schooling.
“Every bus ride, every meal served, every lesson has become a part of what these young men and women are today,” Capovilla said, adding, “Your parents’ commitment to you doesn’t end tonight. It just takes on a new shape.” Superintendent Rick Eggers echoed that theme in issuing “one last assignment” to the seniors. He started his remarks by noting that many of the grads have lived in Hood River County all their lives while some have been here just a year or so.
“No matter how long you have been here, your formal education with the district is over,” he said. “Look around you. This is a beautiful place. It is a special place, but your relationship with the schools ends tonight. But you are not exactly on your own. We school people, we’re done, but (your families) are not. They are still there for you.” Then came the last assignment.
“Find that special person in the audience,” Eggers said. “Go on, look out there and make eye contact with them. Look them in the eye for a moment. Look at that person. Their love is unconditional.”
Class speaker Christy Paul added her own twist to her address to the Class of 2003.
She began by saying she remembered, as a kindergartener at Mid Valley Elementary, being told she had to finish a project in five minutes. “I was so worried. Did it mean I had to stay after school? Would I have to stay in the school overnight and miss the bus home?”
“It’s amazing how much things have changed, including our fears,” Paul said. As she grew, the fears had to do with wearing the right clothes, listening to the right music, and behaving in the right ways around the right people, or risking public embarassment.
“When I got to be a senior I laughed at the fears I’d had,” Paul said. “But frankly, I stand today before you afraid: afraid of what the future holds. Because we have been prepared to be part of the real world but the real world has morphed into something we don’t even recognize,” Paul said, referring to fears of conflict in the Middle East, of nuclear proliferation, and of increasing global religious hatred.
“We are now facing things we do not understand and that scares us,” Paul said. “But fear can stop us in our tracks and stop us from going places. But I say to seniors as well as other students and parents: look at fear from a new perspective. Instead of turning away from your fears, face them head on. Interpret fear as a challenge to make the future a more interesting, exciting, and worthwhile place.”