Controversy brings class together
The first Woodinville High Senior Celebration was held last week in the gym, where more than 150 students, parents, and friends heard music, speeches on friendships, goals, memories, and tributes to parents and teachers.
These were followed by an open microphone session where seniors came up spontaneously to thank their friends, families, and even sing a little.
"It came off really, really well," said Senior Class President Matt Pabst. "It had the effect we wanted it to have, a non-religious celebration of what we've done in the past."
Pabst said he was glad the celebration also didn't come across as a competition with the baccalaureate service, and he enjoyed the open mike segment. "It was a casual and fun way for people to share their talents, and it gave the opportunity to speak in front of the class to people who normally don't have that opportunity."
Following the celebration, the seniors had punch and cookies and visited the Memory Wall: messages written to the seniors by underclassmen on a large piece of butcher paper.
Pabst said it was a good way to connect everybody, not just the senior class.
Dot Tomco, who attended both the Celebration and the Baccalaureate, said many students told her the celebration was the most uplifting event they'd attended all year long.
"They hadn't had the opportunity to share their love for their friends and parents like this," said Dot Tomco. "Instead of the whole controversy tearing the senior class apart, many have said it has brought them closer together."
Rachel Tomco, ASB President and an organizer of the Senior Celebration, was relieved the event came off so well."There's been a huge load lifted off us (now that the events are through)," she said. "It's nice to get back to normal after all of the weird stuff that happened. I'm glad that I did everything that I did."
Rachel Tomco's favorite part of the celebration was the open mike, because, she said, "people I'd never ever expect to get up and speak did, and it was great to hear their sincere thanks to their friends and families."
Baccalaureate Service equally successful
"The committee felt it was a success," said Karen Mackey, speaking of the baccalaureate service. "The purpose was to glorify God and celebrate the seniors' graduation, and I think we accomplished that."
Mackey's daughter, Christy, and her husband, Jeff, sang a duet, and Christy said she appreciated the music the most.
"The music was what really got to me, that and the reflections of the seniors," said Christy Mackey.
About 200 attended the baccalaureate service, held at the Woodinville Alliance Church, and many were impressed with the keynote speaker, former Seahawk and vice-president of CRISTA ministries, Reuben Mayes.
Mayes spoke of what is needed in life for "running the race," including the expectation of conflict and the need to stand up for what one believes.
The 45-minute ceremony was punctuated by songs, prayers, and excerpts from the Bible, finishing with a benediction by Cedar Park Assembly of God Pastor Joseph B. Fuiten and followed by punch and cookies.
The challenge for next year's graduating seniors
The celebration at the school was explicitly non-secular, with a universal message. A teacher introduced the open mike with a cautious reminder to observe the separation of "church and school."
The baccalaureate service specifically celebrated the students' accomplishments with a focus on glorifying the Christian God.
Whether one was more inclusive or exclusive than the other comes down to whether members of the community expected to hold a ceremony recognizing the religious diversity of the community, possibly even those who are not religious; or whether several baccalaureates were to be held.
Some maintain that a baccalaureate service needs to deliver a specific message, or the meaning of the event becomes "watered down," leaving the students "unfulfilled." Others believe that unless it is the entire class in one place, it is divisive.
Planners for next year's ceremonies may want to consider that if there is only one ceremony scheduled, it may receive the brunt of the criticism for being "exclusive" unless the message delivered is spiritually general in nature.
Additionally, for good or for bad, the term "baccalaureate" has been redefined from the traditional usage of an all-inclusive religious message to one of a specific focus.
Traditional baccalaureates of years past in other communities have been religious and spiritual events, held at a high schools and attended by many faiths--Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Protestant, Catholic--all in one place, sometimes with sermons by several ministers, but more often with a generalized sermon.
According to the school district, baccalaureates can be held at the school, but the facilities must be rented out for the event and no staff or student time can be spent promoting the event. Typically, space is donated by a church for the service, as it was this year.