In a ceremony that looked a little different from years past, the Woodinville High School graduation was filled with reflections and excitement. The seniors were masked and spaced out in chairs on the football field, while a limited audience sat in the stands and others watched the livestream at home.
The 2021 commencement speakers tried to define the emotions that encapsulated what they’d all experienced and what was to come, but it was clear that, for many, there was a sense of gratitude – for what came before the pandemic, for the connections made in the past four years, and for the small things.
The students, families, staff, and administration gathered in Pop Keeney Stadium on Wednesday Jan. 16 in what was one of very few large, in-person gatherings in the past year. Sidney Mays, the faculty-chosen student speaker, said that the isolation since last March has given her a new perspective.
“As I look at each and every one of you today, I am so very appreciative of what we have gotten to do this year, and the 16 or 17 for most y’all, years before,” Mays said.
She named numerous teachers and other staff who helped her along the way, in small or big ways – whether it was letting her stay late to keep working, answering her endless questions or the trainer helping her through an injury.
Principal Kurt Criscione recognized the 413-student senior class’s numerous achievements in academics, athletics, music, and service to the community.
“You have shown us so much is possible through this pandemic,” he said.
He highlighted that the class had earned a total of nearly $4 million in scholarships, nine athletes signed national letters of intent, and students helped collect a record-breaking 9,305 food items for a local food bank. He also acknowledged that maybe more than a few of the students woke up, logged into Zoom, and went back to bed.
For student-chosen co-speakers, Madison Chan and Tina Zhang, they were grateful for the connections they’ve made – with each other, among student organizations, with staff, and for the ones yet to be made.
Zhang read from a Chinese poem about friendship that she had given Chan with a painting she’d done of a sunrise.
“Life’s journey is a long one, and although in between every hello and goodbye, our time is never long enough, and our time apart is always too long,” Zhang translated.
The two spoke of the bridges built though small gestures during their time at WHS. They spoke of the ache that they and so many students felt to be back together, even for just one day.
“The bridges between us do not start and end with high school,” Chan said.
“Our hope for the class of 2021, is that by the end of our lifetimes, we’ll be able to walk across the world together with the bridges we have created,” the two friends said together.