The importance of hard work, friendship and enjoying each moment were higlighted in graduation speeches delivered by Meadowdale High School’s Class of 2023 during the school’s commencement ceremony at Edmonds Stadium Thursday night.
The nearly 350 graduates, their families and friends were welcomed by Meadowdale High School Principal David Shockley, who said the students were part of “a class like no other class has experienced — four years of COVID, hybrid learning, remote learning and then trying to get back into the swing of things.”
The first student speaker was ASB President Gelila Abraham, who also talked about the challenges the students faced: “Freshman year was cut short, sophomore year was borderline non-existent, junior year was awkward and somehow we blinked, and our final year.”
Despite the tribulations, the class “was always united. And that’s what made this journey worthwhile,” Abraham said.
The rest of the speeches were delivered by eight valedictorians from the Class of 2023.
Speaker Madison Stackhouse the graduates that ‘Yes, COVID happened, but it doesn’t represent our whole lives.” She went on to say that it was difficult to encapsulate 13 years of school into a minute-and-a-half speech, adding “there are no right words for this. It wouldn’t give this moment justice. ”
Valedictorian Camrynn Moore described how her work with the Meadowdale Drama Program “has made me a better artist, leader and person.”
“Thank you to our drama teacher Ms. Meyners. When I become a teacher one day, I can only hope to bring as much good into my students’ lives as she has brought into mine,” Moore said. “If we take any lesson from high school, I would like it to be this: strength comes from struggle and the most rewarding moments come from the hardest work.”
Next to the podium was valedictorian Maria Isabel Carujo, who advised graduates to “remember who you are and what you’re meant to be. That’s what I’ve learned from high school.”
“Leave today with no hard feelings towards others,” Carujo said. “Leave knowing you did your best and that’s why you are here.”
Valedictorian Natalie Webster urged her fellow seniors to “keep moving forward,” noting that attending high school during the COVID years “has taught us to deal with the unknown and challenges we couldn’t even fathom a few years ago.”
“Resilience,” she added. “We’re graduates because we kept moving forward.”
Hannah Tran, another valedictorian, talked about the growth she experienced during her years in high school. “As a freshman, I never would have considered standing up here to speak in front of hundreds of people,” Tran said. “But what the last four years have shown me, is that it is valuable to take risks, and to challenge yourself, even if it’s only by a little.”
“Moving forward, let’s remember the true gifts high school gave us,” Tran continued. “The memories and the relationships that we created during our time here.”
Valedictorian Madalaine Rutledge talked about how she used to pretend that high school was a video game, with different levels and missions to accomplish, with graduation seen as the “end of the game.” She then began to realize the importance of enjoying each moment rather than reaching the destination. She advised both the audience and her fellow graduates: “Don’t live life just to meet an end goal or to win the game. Be present in your enviroment and enjoy the journey that the game provides you.”
Eden Thoesen — the next valedictorian to speak — described her experience bonding with other members of the Meadowdale volleyball team, which competed at this year’s state tourament, and the importance of social connections as graduates move forward in their lives. “I hope that wherever your next adventure leads you, that you find your people,” Thoesen said. “Find others to experience life with because they make life worthwhile. Find your group to cherish as you continue on your journey.”
Keelin Squires said in her valedictorian speech that it would have been tempting to stay in an isolated bubble following two years of pandeic learning, but she saw the return to in-person learning in junior year “as a blank slate — a chance to finally put myself out there.” She joined Unmasked, Meadowdale’s art and literary magazine, and publishing her poetry and photography,”taking the step outside of my comfort zone opened up a treasure trove of new opportunities.” She encouraged her fellow graduates to view challenges as offering “new opportunities and room for change.”
The final valedictorian speaker was Khubilal Brown, who described the high school experience as the middle of each student’s book of life. “This is the part we care about because the friends we’ve made, the moments we’ve shared and the joy these times have brought in spite of the stresses, fears and anxieties we hold,” Brown said. “So let’s slow down a little. Make this middle worth experiences. Read the paragraphs instead of skimming the sentences.”
Other class valedictorians were Lucia Brady, Siri Siqveland, Ashley Yong and Annabelle Yenter.
Photos from the Meadowdale commencement, by Peter Harvey:
— By Teresa Wippel