A rare accomplishment accompanied the awarding of 119 diplomas Saturday afternoon to the 119 graduates that are part of Philomath High School's Class of 2019.
Every senior that started the school year earned a diploma — a feat made even more remarkable for a class that includes more than 100 students.
A nervous energy filled the air in the school library while the seniors prepared to make the walk onto Clemens Field for the ceremony. Many fidgeted with their caps and gowns, others horsed around with their friends and a few kicked back in comfy chairs until it was time to line up. One senior, Daniel Arthurs, even had a chess board out as a way to relax.
“It a whole bunch of feelings encompassed into one day,” said Seth Staten, one of 10 valedictorians. “I’m excited that finals season is over and I’m moving on to a new chapter in my life. But at the same time, I’m moving on to a new chapter and I don’t know what to expect.”
Besides Staten, other valedictorians included Florence Anderson, Kena Bacho, Reya Fairbanks, Rafael Grossman-Naples, Rhiannon Gudge, Emma Matthews, Hailey Matthews, Lindsay Schell and Ella Skinkis.
“I’m really excited to graduate," Anderson said. "I feel ready to leave; I feel like high school has prepared me for college.”
Gudge was a bit nervous before the ceremony, which for her would include a few moments in front of the microphone talking to the crowd. Gudge is apparently calm, cool and collected on test days, however, and was named as a National Merit Scholar, a prestigious academic honor that comes with scholarship money.
“It’s very exciting ... it opened up a lot of opportunities college-wise of where I could attend because it gives me a scholarship,” Gudge said, adding that she’ll receive $2,000 annually while at Tulane. “I was a little bit surprised when I found out I got it.”
As people grow older, many look back fondly on their high school years. Careers develop and people move away, new friends surface and some classmates become disconnected. But the memories will be there.
Anderson, for example, said she’ll remember her friends and all of the great teachers she had.
“I think I’m going to look most fondly on the memories that I made where I pushed myself out of my comfort zone,” Staten said. "Especially this year, I started trying to do that ... going to state band; the feeling that I had when I was able to go up on the stage two years in a row. That was extremely special.”
Gudge also mentioned friends and the state championships that she was a part of with band and choir.
Students move through their high school years with varying levels of ease or difficulty. Some have natural-born abilities and cruise through school while reaping the rewards. Others do just enough to get by and a few have major hurdles to clear for a chance to make the diploma walk.
But no matter what heading a particular student may fall under, their teachers often have some sort of impact.
Dan Johnson fit that description for Staten.
“I think when I came here as a freshman, I was kinda just lost going around trying to figure out what worked best for me,” Staten remembered. “I felt like even if I didn't decide 100 percent I wanted to go down the path of music, I feel like he really sent me in that direction. As far as what I decided to do during high school, he introduced me to a lot of things and he was really supportive.”
For Anderson and Gudge, they both said many people contributed to their paths in education.
“It wasn’t so much a teacher, but my relatives,” Anderson said when asked about influences. “The teachers have definitely helped; there’s a great science and math program here and they’ve definitely strengthened my skills so I feel ready.”
While Principal Mike Bussard and Assistant Principal Tony Matta announced the senior awards, an unfortunate circumstance occurred when someone in the audience needed medical attention. Bussard asked if there was a doctor in the house while Superintendent of Schools Melissa Goff hurried from her seat to the person in need while calling out for a nurse or EMT.
After pausing for about 2-1/2 minutes, the program resumed. Philomath Fire & Rescue soon responded to the scene and although an emergency vehicle approached the grandstands on the track, the ordeal didn’t create what would be characterized as a major distraction.
Among those awards presented, the Outstanding Senior honor went to Calvin Snuggerud.
After the final diploma had been awarded, the students gathered in front of the crowd for the traditional act of throwing their mortarboards in the air.
As Staten said, he’s moving on to the next chapter.
“I’m going to be moving out soon and not interacting with the same people that I’ve been with for most of my life, so it’s kinda scary,” said Staten, who will attend Oregon State. “But I feel like high school’s made me ready for something like this.”