In a year of upheaval and confusion, there’s something to be said for tradition.
Seniors at White River High School’s four-part graduation, which staggered the 277 graduating seniors through four separate ceremonies over the course of Saturday, celebrated with their parents, tossed their caps and took plenty of photos.
Between the masked students and pre-recorded music by the school’s musical programs, the graduation wasn’t typical. But in many ways, neither was the class.
The 2021 seniors, who are the 116th class to graduate from WRHS, earned $3,021,074 in scholarships for next year, a record amount.
“What you all have achieved, given the uncertainty of this time, is mind-boggling,” said graduation speaker and science teacher Megan Schodron to the assembled seniors.
Graduate Carson Kohler said the last year has been up-and-down but it feels good to be graduating. He already has a welding job in Orting.
“I’ve waited a long time for this,” Kohler said.
“The last year has probably been one of the most stressful years I’ve ever gone through,” said graduate Bryson Cassity. “It’s just been weird, man. There was no way to really know what was coming for us.”
But the last year hasn’t been all bad either, he said. And now he’s looking forward to the “freedom” of making his own moves in life.
Plus, “at least I’m here walking at graduation for my family and my friends,” Cassity said. “I think it’s very important that the ceremony is still being held, even though it’s with COVID restrictions.”
Audrey Nichols was “really excited” to be graduating Saturday and moving on to the next step of her life. She plans to become a dental hygienist.
The school year got off to a weird start, and keeping up with the switching between online, hybrid and in-person lessons could be hard, “but we got through it,” she said.
Brooke Stretz only attended White River for her senior year, and with the changes brought by COVID, she didn’t get many chances to meet her fellow graduates.
Ordinarily a solid student, Stretz had trouble adjusting to online classes like many students. But she and her GPA bounced back with the shift back into in-person learning.
“When you have your phone and TV with your computer, it’s like, why would I pay attention to this,” Stretz said.
Now, Stretz plans to study at Pierce College. She hasn’t fully committed to a field of study but she’s interested in biology and science in general.
“I don’t know how they did it,” Schodron said after the ceremony. “I got my teaching [certification] on an online program, and it was hard as an adult. But to have them do it six classes a day — it’s just so impressive. And I’m so proud of them, because it was hard.”
Teacher Ashley Sweitzer was impressed, too.
“Not only did they have to survive the four years of high school, but they survived a pandemic,” she said. “And we’ve never had to persevere on that level, ever. And this group was so resilient and joyful along the way that it’s exciting that we get to celebrate them in person.”