The Ketchikan High School Class of 2013 celebrated its graduation on Sunday. More than 100 students processed past friends, relatives and fellow classmates to receive their diplomas.
A graduation, as one might expect, is full of speeches about seizing the day or chasing your dreams. While the messages may not resonate with the actual graduates, you can tell they do with some of the older members of the audience, those adults that have already tried, no doubt with varying levels of success, to seize days or chase dreams.
But to those eager, soon-to-be high school graduates waiting in the middle of the Clark Cochrane gymnasium, the honest words and special prop of the their commencement speaker, Inge Kummant, seem to register the most.
“I graduated highschool 40 years ago this month, in 1973, during the Watergate scandal, at the beginning of a recession that would last most of the 1970s,” Kummant says. “The times were not so different from today. When I was asked to give this speech, I wracked my brain to remember what on earth our graduation speaker said to us. I never did remember, thus my visual aid. You may not remember what I say, but I hope you remember the flag.”
Kummant unfurls a bright orange flag with a black square and triangle on the front and tapes it to the front of the podium. She explains that the flag represents the maritime symbol for distress. And that, ultimately, if the graduates remember nothing else from her speech, they’d recall that flag. Forget carpe diem, she seems to say: if you’re ever in distress in life, don’t ever be afraid to ask for help.
The discarding of tradition seems to be a theme of the ceremony. Marco Torres, the class’s Salutatorian, gave a speech that was equally encouraging and playful.
“So go enjoy college, go enjoy traveling, go enjoy work, go and enjoy whatever it is you want to become and enjoy it to your fullest extent,” Torres tells his classmates. “We can now choose who we want to be without any limits on our goals. The limit does not exist. So carpe diem, seize the day, YOLO, whatever floats your boat.”
Nathan Buendia, a graduating senior, sings a rendition of “Hometown Glory” by Adele Adkins. Speeches are given by Britta Pihl, the class valedictorian and class president, and Superintendent Robert Boyle. And then, led by the sounds of the Kayhi Concert Band led by Deirdre Nuss, the moment everyone is waiting for.
The 116 graduates strut down a red carpet in the gymnasium to accept their diplomas from Ketchikan Gateway Borough School Board President Ginny Clay. Of course, being ecstatic teenagers, they don’t just “walk”. Some rais their fists triumphantly, some contort into splits, one even seems to perform what some football fans know as a “Tebow”.
But despite what you might think by the break of decorum, the graduating Kayhi Class of 2013 is a distinguished one. Superintendent Boyle draws attention to the accomplishments of the class, which has secured more than $7 million in scholarship funds. The class also won a third of the scholarships available statewide in Alaska.
Students from this class will most likely go to college, enter the workforce or join the military. Some will stay in town, and others travel the country or the world.
But, as someone mentions at the ceremony, the class of 2013’s motto is an apt one:
“Together we have experienced life, separately we will pursue our dreams, and forever our memories will remain.”
As the jubilant crowd of graduates exits the gymnasium, lofty rhetoric is no doubt far from their minds. They smile, laugh, take photos with their friends, busy creating those memories that will last them the rest of their lives.