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They Did It!: More Than 650 Area Seniors Receive Diplomas

June 25, 2008

By Ashley Coats, The Peninsula Gateway, Gig Harbor, Wash.

Jun. 19–More than 650 high school graduates from Gig Harbor and the Key Peninsula walked across the stage to receive their diplomas last week.

Peninsula and Gig Harbor high school both held graduation ceremonies at the Tacoma Dome on Sunday, while Henderson Bay High School held its graduation at Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church on Friday.

“I’ve been ready to graduate for a couple of years,” PHS graduate Amanda Gould said.

GHHS graduates looked like a tide with their solid blue caps and gowns at the noon ceremony. GHHS had the most graduates out of the three schools with 374 students.

“They work hard and play hard,” GHHS principal Greg Schellenberg said. “They stick up for each other and are a pretty tight class.”

The 280 graduates from PHS had a mixture of green and white robes at their afternoon ceremony.

“They are a great senior class,” PHS principal Tim Winter said. “This class had a lot to do with the positive climate at Peninsula this year. We’ll miss them.”

Henderson Bay had a much smaller ceremony: Only 12 students comprised the class.

“This is a class that has persevered through some circumstances that less-driven people would not have,” Henderson Bay principal Dan Gregory said. “They should have a great amount of pride in their accomplishments.”

The GHHS graduation ceremony featured speeches by graduates Miles Unterreiner and Greg Bigelow. Unterreiner spoke about the mysteries of what lies ahead, and Bigelow asked the question, “How did we get here?”

“There is no one holding us back, and no one double-checking our answers,” Bigelow said.

GHHS debate coach Chris Coovert addressed the sea of graduates and asked them to remain a part of their community.

“You should not let technology replace community connections,” Coovert said.

PHS had four valedictorians, Blair Burmark, Melissa Foss, Leah Fujita and Brodrick Yastrum. The valedictorians gave a joint speech at their ceremony.

“We have a lot of really strong people, in different fields, that will contribute a lot to the world,” Foss said.

PHS special education and English teacher John Eastman has attended 13 graduation ceremonies, but Sunday was his last because he’s retiring to do “lots of family things.”

Eastman said this graduation was especially meaningful to him.

“This year is when several of the students I taught are graduating,” he said. “It’s satisfying to see them all step up.”

This year’s graduates were members of the first class required to pass the reading and writing portions of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning. They were also required to complete a senior project.

“The last week has been stressful, getting stuff done before graduation,” GHHS graduate Brendan Saltvick said. “I’m just enjoying what time I have left as far as graduation and summer.”

After the Tacoma Dome ceremonies came to a close, a number of graduates from both schools returned to their high school to participate in the Senior Night Out. Students left their school that night and didn’t return until the following morning.

The trip was created by mothers more than a decade ago to give students an alternative to partying on graduation night.

The seniors were kept in the dark about their destinations and events for the night.

PHS seniors traveled to Laser Quest and to a go-kart track on their night out. They were also entertained by a hypnotist.

“(The hypnotist) was really funny,” PHS graduate Jhared Williams said. “The best part was when there was a fake pregnancy.”

GHHS seniors went on a party cruise before they saw a hypnotist and went go-karting.

“I wasn’t really tired, because I was going all night,” GHHS graduate Chad Vivian said. “But as soon as I got back, I crashed.”

Reach intern Ashley Coats at 253-853-9224 or by e-mail at ashley.coats@gateline.com.

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Copyright (c) 2008, The Peninsula Gateway, Gig Harbor, Wash.

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