Edmonds Heights K-12 graduates 39 in festive ceremony

Mortarboards fly as the graduates rejoice in their new status.

There were plenty of tears, cheers and hugs to go around as more than 300 parents, teachers, family and friends filled the gym at Edmonds Heights K-12 Friday to honor the 39 students of the 2024 graduating class.

Edmonds Heights is not a traditional school. Organized in 1996, it was part of an effort by the district to become more inclusive, broaden its approach and provide students and families with choices other than the traditional education model. At Edmonds Heights, parents are active partners in building the school’s specialized approach to education through all grades, K-12. While many students come to Edmonds Heights from other schools, some have been there for their entire academic careers.

Principal Kathleen Hodges addresses the graduates and attendees.

“At our school the parents and families are the primary educators of our students,” explained principal Kathleen Hodges.  “Our faculty and staff provide resources, critical support and encouragement to the students and parents, helping them to build an individualized learning program for each student. At Edmonds Heights our students find a safe, equitable, nurturing environment that allows every learner the opportunity to thrive.”

Long-time faculty member and science teacher Erin Zackey is a strong proponent of this approach.

“I teach science to students from K-6,” she explained. “It’s so wonderful to watch students over the years as they grow in understanding, maturity and self-awareness. I’m seeing students graduate here tonight that I’ve taught for many years. I love working here and wouldn’t want to teach anywhere else.”

Graduating senior line up in the hallway outside the gym before the processional.
Students applaud their classmates as they enter the gym.
Graduating senior Jazz Upp strides in during the processional.

After welcoming the audience, Hodges directed the processional of graduates to enter the room and take their seats to the strains of Pomp and Circumstance. When all were seated, she introduced Edmonds Schools Superintendent Dr. Rebecca Miner.

“Look around you at the faces of friends and family who supported you in partnership with your teachers who were your learning guides,” she said. “They are the foundation of what you have built together.

Edmonds School Superintendent Rebecca Miner urged graduates to “go ahead and make your mark on the world.”

“When I was in high school it was common for parents to give a suitcase as a graduation gift – not a subtle statement,” she added with a laugh. “But the suitcase isn’t just about travel – it’s about possibilities. The world is yours to explore.  Take risks, learn, stumble, but never stop growing. The future isn’t a destination – it’s an adventure. The best stories have yet to be written, so go ahead and make your mark on the world!”

Student speaker Grace Carbonetti-Norton spoke of being “terrified” when she arrived at Edmonds Heights for sixth grade. She said she was overwhelmed by the support she received and advised all to “never underestimate the power of simple, everyday kindness.”
Speaker Ruby Heidner, who has been attending Edmonds Heights since third grade, spoke of the importance of asking for help when it’s needed.
Speaker Ricardo Gurango advised all to resist making comparisons to others, but rather have confidence in themselves. “Take each day as it comes, live life, and let the other stuff go,” he said.
Silas LaRose stressed the value of maintaining curiosity throughout life, and being open to new things and ideas.
Speaker Christopher Leyton recounted his journey through Edmonds Heights.

Hodges then returned to introduce the five student graduation speakers — Grace Carbonetti-Norton, Ricardo Gurango, Ruby Heidner, Silas LaRose and Christopher Leyton. She noted that in keeping with the philosophy of Edmonds Heights, these speakers are not chosen by anyone, but rather any student who feels they have something they’d like to say as a graduation speaker is encouraged to self-nominate and offer themselves in this role.

While the speaker messages differed in detail, they all stressed the values of friendship, kindness, self-reliance, always keeping an open mind and never losing the joy of the moment.

The ceremony included a student musical performance of “Children Will Listen” from the musical “Into the Woods.”

The student speakers were followed by a musical offering where six graduating seniors performed a rendition of Children Will Listen from the musical Into the Woods, after which Hodges again took the podium with a special message from the principal.

“Issac Newton once famously said, ‘If you want to see further, you need to stand on the shoulders of giants,’” she began. “Now look around you – left, right, in front and in back. These are your giants, this incredible group of friends, family, teachers and others who have gotten you to this point that will carry you over to your next great adventure. My wish for you in these adventures is that you seek and find more giants to stand on so you can see even further.”

First in line to receive his diploma, Joshua Dawson meets his parents on stage.
Charlotte Paynich gets hugs from her family as they present her with her diploma.

Hodges’ remarks were followed by the presentation of diplomas to graduates by their family members.  The graduates lined up on one side of the podium and parents — holding the diplomas — on the other. As each graduate’s name was called, they and their parents advanced across the podium. Meeting in the center, the parents presented the diploma amid hugs, tears and smiles of gratitude for the role each has played in the life of the other as celebrated in this simple but deeply meaningful gesture.

Diploma presentation was followed by another Edmonds Heights tradition – the senior class video, featuring a montage of photos from the past life of each graduate, from baby photos to recent shots.

Hodges then directly all graduates to stand, face the audience and give a warm round of applause to all the parents and family who were part of bring them to this moment.

She then directed that they turn to face her, and shift their mortarboard tassels from right to left, indicating that they had now officially graduated.

Amid cheers and flying mortarboards, the class of 2024 exited to the outdoor courtyard where they were met by parents and family for hugs, photos and hearty congratulations.

It was an evening for photographs as parents and graduates retired to the courtyard after the ceremony.

— Story and photos by Larry Vogel

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Real first and last names — as well as city of residence — are required for all commenters.
This is so we can verify your identity before approving your comment.