Seven graduates sail on from Mapleton


Photos by Zac Burtt & Chantelle Meyer/Siuslaw News

Class of 2022 celebrates with Sailor pride

June 15, 2022 — On June 11, Mapleton School District graduated seven seniors in the Class of 2022. The indoor ceremony featured speeches, slide shows, music and memories as the Mapleton Sailors bid farewell to this part of their journey.

Graduation began with a processional, with seven candle lighters ushering in six of the graduates: Noah Berg, Jahala Blake, Micayla Flansberg, Jadah Harper, Joseph Shepard and Brierlynn Shird. The seventh graduate, Opal Burruss, was in Richmond, Va., for the High School National Invite for Ultimate Frisbee along with her team from South Eugene High School.

Micayla led the attendees in the pledge of allegiance. 

“Welcome to Mapleton High School’s 2022 graduation ceremony. We have worked very hard the past 13 years to get where we are today,” she said.

That was followed by the Salutatorian Address by Joseph.

“Today, we celebrate the achievement of these seniors who are graduating high school. None of us would be here if it wasn't for the love and support of our friends, family, teachers and staff at Mapleton,” he said. “We are blessed to go to such a small school where all the students are friendly. So friendly, in fact, that we're not afraid to reveal our true selves. Our community is so tight knit that you can always count on a neighbor for help.

The Valedictorian Address came later in the ceremony, with Opal speaking through a pre-recorded video.

Both speeches thanked almost every staff member at Mapleton High School, from bus drivers and office personnel to their teachers and administrators

“I think the most important thing that we learned during our time in high school is life skills and lessons,” Opal said. “We're about to go our separate ways. I hope that wherever we go, we take our lessons and skills that we learned in high school with us, whether it's college, trade school, opening a small business or whatever else we want.”

The guest speaker for the event was teacher Juline Walker. Her address referenced President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s quote, “A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.”

“Class of 2022, a smooth sea is the furthest thing from what each of you have experienced, especially the last few years. As Mapleton Sailors, you've had to quickly develop multiple new skills in order to navigate very rough seas on which you were sailing. I trust you will continue to go on new skills as you face some more rough and challenging seas ahead,” she said.

Walker recognized each of the graduates, listing three traits for each student that embodied how they interact with fellow students, staff and their education.

“You graduates have demonstrated that you have a combination of unique qualities and essential skills to be valuable and skillful Mapleton Sailors. Furthermore, you have learned to raise your sails and use the winds of adversity to sail on and overcome many of the challenges that you've faced. As you sail on to the next phase of your journey, I would like to send each of you with a gift,” she said.

Walker presented the graduates with a multi-component gift, including a gift card to Barnes and Noble, emergency survival kit, compass, first aid kit and flashlight.

“I hope this light helps you find the way, the truth and the life as you navigate through both the calm and the rough and rough and stormy seas that lie ahead. When the winds of life break the sails of your ship and become too much for your current sail to manage, I hope you will remember all the things that make you distinctly you. I also hope that you will always know that you have great inherent value and you each have a unique calling and purpose for your life that nobody, but you can fulfill,” she said.

The ceremony allowed each graduate to present roses to people important to them. This was followed by the senior slideshow, which showed the progression of the graduates from children to young adults.

Mapleton’s graduation was also the chance to announce the scholarship and awards students have received from the Siuslaw community.

The Mapleton Scholarships and Awards:

  • Joe & Pearl Ellingson Scholarship, presented by Karen Skulley
    • Opal Burruss $1,000
    • Jahala Blake $1,000
  • Rotary Club of Florence, presented by Karen Skulley
    • Opal Burruss $2,000
    • Joseph Shepard $5,000
  • Rock Creek Award, presented by Johnny Sundstrom
    • Micayla Flansberg $250
    • Brier Shird $250
  • Oregon Pacific Bank, presented by Lori Gates
    • Opal Burruss $2,000
  • Mapleton Lions Club, presented by Carl West
    • Jahala Blake $3,000
  • Mapleton Community Foundation Don Kohler Memorial Scholarship, presented by Carl West
    • Joseph Shepard $1,000, renewable for 4 years
    • Opal Burruss $1,000, renewable for 4 years
  • Independent Order of Odd Fellows – Heceta Lodge, presented by Jodi OMara
    • Joseph Shepard $500
    • Jahala Blake $500
    • Opal Burruss $500
  • Ada Grange Harley Huff Sr. Memorial Scholarship, presented by Jodi OMara
    • Jahala Blake $500
  • Chester & Lorraine Arnn Memorial Scholarship, given by their daughter, Lisa Readel and presented by Jodi OMara
    • Jahala Blake $5,000
  • Lonnie Iholts Florence Kiwanis Scholarship, presented by Jodi OMara
    • Opal Burruss $1,000
  • Mapleton High School Staff Scholarship, presented by Jodi OMara
    • Brier Shird $2,000
  • 2022 Rhododendron Festival King of the Coast, presented by Jodi OMara
    • Joseph Shepard $2,000

As he presented the Rock Creek Awards, Sundstrom said, “I have never seen a school year or two with more obstacles, more problems and more difficulties … and these graduates survived and stuck it out. And that is a tremendous achievement. I want to congratulate and honor the students, the families, the teachers and the administration for making this happen.”

He also acknowledged Joseph’s recent milestone, when he made the longest long jump in Mapleton school history.

“I saw that athlete, Tyson Bones, 42 years ago when he was setting records for track. Now Joseph has broken one of those records,” Sundstrom said.

He presented the athlete with an all-weather Mapleton sports shirt.

Before leaving the stage, Sundstrom said, “I've been in this district for over 50 years, and it is a privilege. We have the honor of having one of the longest-term high school students get to their graduation. And I'd like to have a big round of applause to Jodi O’Mara, a 10-year graduate this year from Mapleton schools.”

Mapleton School District Superintendent O’Mara is retiring this month after 10 years with the district.

At the end of the scholarship announcements, she came forward to present the Outstanding Senior Award.

According to O’Mara, staff voted for each student in four categories: scholarship, leadership, character and service. After that process, Opal was named the Outstanding Senior.

The ceremony ended with the students receiving their diplomas from O’Mara, Principal Brenda Moyer and Mapleton School Board Member Andrea Milbrett.

“I hereby certify that the students before you have completed all the requirements of the Mapleton School District and the State of Oregon,” O’Mara announced. “Seniors, you may move your tassels to the right. And may I present to you, the Class of 2022.”

To see the ceremony in full go