For the senior classes of Mapleton and Siuslaw high schools, last weekend marked a milestone as the community came together to honor student accomplishments and celebrate the commencement of the Class of 2019.
Siuslaw High School’s 85 graduating seniors walked in a large-scale ceremony on June 7, with the gym filled to capacity with cheering families, friends and community members.
Siuslaw Principal Kerri Tatum welcomed people to the event, saying, “Thank you for celebrating the Siuslaw High School Class of 2019 as they complete their high school education.”
Ten of Mapleton’s 12 graduates chose to walk in a student-planned ceremony on June 8 with the support of their families and the upriver population.
“It was phenomenal to see all the families and community that turned out to support the kids, as well as the staff. It was neat,” said Mapleton School District Superintendent Jodi O’Mara. “We are so proud of the graduates from the 2019 class and so anxious to hear where they go and what they do. The journey they are about to embark on is so exciting, so I can’t wait to hear how they learn and grow and what they become. The best part about education is seeing where they all end up.”
Each ceremony included two student speeches. At Siuslaw, Outstanding Senior Girl Samantha Scheer and Outstanding Senior Boy Phoenix Brazille gave talks about the past four years of their education and gave inspiring words about the future.
Scheer advised the graduates to live life to the fullest, saying, “Live for the moment, make mistakes, make memories — and above anything and everything else, never forget who you are, where you’ve been, the challenges you have faced and your goals and aspirations in life. … Show the world how amazing you can be and inspire others.”
Brazille said his classmate Angela Bartlett encouraged him to make his speech memorable, and the best way to do that was to “say something super weird.” He went on to relate the Siuslaw graduating class to apples.
“I know what you’re thinking — ‘Is he giving a graduation speech about apples?’ Yes, exactly, and I’m going to take you back. Here we go.”
He said that some of the class are red and ripe, prepared for the future, while others are a bit more hesitant.
“No matter how ready you are, Class of 2019, this is our harvest,” he said. “Let’s not forget who we were or who we’ve become or what the lessons of Siuslaw taught us. Also remember to show love, because love never fails.”
At Mapleton, Salutatorian Vladimyr “Storm” Schwertfeger and Valedictorian Andy Riggs gave addresses about things they have learned and where they hope their classmates go.
Schwertfeger listed 10 things he learned in kindergarten — using Robert Fulghum’s book “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” No. 10 was that warm cookies and milk make everything better, and he handed out cookies to the senior class on stage.
“That was really a nice, light moment in a very serious event,” O’Mara said. “It was really sweet and the kids were not expecting that.”
Riggs’ speech “enlightened kids to what they are getting into going off into adulthood while remembering where we came from and who we are,” O’Mara said. “It was two very different speeches, but both very inspiring in different ways.”
Mapleton also had a guest speaker, former district teacher John Wagner, who taught Spanish and math while the seniors were in middle school.
“When they were thinking about a guest speaker to come back and inspire them as they graduate from high school, they landed on John Wagner,” O’Mara said. “He was a great speaker to come back and reflect on the students. He’s known them since middle school and got to see the growth they had.”
In addition, the Mapleton students put together a senior slideshow to recognize memorable moments for each of the graduates.
“For us, to have the kids’ individual slides up from their life, pictures they choose that represent them and their journey, and the song they want to have played to represent where they are in their life, to me, that’s what makes it so personal,” O’Mara said.
The Mapleton seniors chose “Glorious” by Macklemore as their recessional. Their senior quote was from Bob Ross: “We do not make mistakes, only happy accidents.”
“This is a graduation for them to celebrate their 13 years of accomplishment, so we want them as involved in it as they can,” O’Mara said. “They planned most of it: the decorations, the guest speaker, the slideshow — it’s all student-created. They get to decide who they walk with and how we announce their names and everything. It really is a student graduation.”
Mapleton also includes scholarship announcements in its graduation ceremony, unlike Siuslaw, which held a separate event on May 30.
“I really appreciate being able to announce scholarships at graduation,” O’Mara said. “If we have 12 or we have two, it makes it so much more of a celebration and a time for us to celebrate it all at once. That helps make it the small, intimate, community- and family-centered program we have.”
Mapleon Board of education Chair Mizu Burruss, Mapleton High School Principal Brenda Moyer and O’Mara presented the diplomas to Mapleton’s graduates.
Siuslaw chose “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth as the class song and a quote from Winston Churchill as the senior quote: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
The senior students also requested to include educators in their commencement, so teachers Max Perry and Sean O’Mara and Siuslaw School Board directors John Barnett and Dennis King presented students their diplomas.
Scheer ended her speech to her classmates with, “So take this moment in. You’re graduating. We have accomplished one of the many major milestones in our lives. Graduation is not minimal … Let it take you somewhere to be proud of.”