After noting Monday as a night to celebrate, Homer High School’s commencement speaker turned the tables on the class of 2014.
Sean Campbell, who teaches language arts at the school, drew a laugh by asking the students if they had “all made sure to have a teacher … as your commencement speaker?”
It was clear from the emotion seasoning Campbell’s voice and the warmth with which he was received that they knew exactly what they had done by selecting him to mark this moment in their lives.
Campell’s first piece of advice was simple, straightforward and exactly what would be expected from a language arts teacher: Read good books.
“Read to understand yourself and others,” Campbell told the students.
He followed that with three other pieces of advice:
1. Encourage kindness;
2. Seek to discover tirelessly;
3. Live passionately.
He closed with Robert Frost’s “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” a poem about the beauty and elusiveness of gold.
“Class of 2014, you are golden in my life,” Campbell told the students.
Putting dollars and cents to the evening, Lin Hampson, guidance counselor, listed the scholarships that had been awarded. Hampson said she had challenged the senior class to meet or beat the $1.6 million in scholarships awarded to the class of 2013. They did. By $42.
Seniors Katherine Dolma and John Walsworth each gave a valedictory address. Dolma passed along life-wisdom that originated with an individual more than 100 years old: show up, pay attention and contribute.
Walsworth listed situations during the past four years that may have elicited an “I’m done” attitude.
“We have spent our whole lives preparing for what lies ahead,” he said, likening life before graduation to time spent in a harbor, building a boat strong enough to withstand whatever storms were ahead.
“But the harbor is not so very interesting, so we will set off. … Tonight we set sail,” said Walsworth, reframing the “I’m done” attitude with, “I’m not done. I’m only just beginning.”
A PowerPoint presentation created by the yearbook staff brought both tears and cheers as it shone the spotlight on each of the graduates, pairing photographs from years past with more current ones.
When the applause died away, Principal Doug Waclawski presented the class to Liz Downing, vice president of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School Board. Then, one at a time, each graduate made his or her way across the stage — some wearing well-worn tennis shoes, some in black patent dress shoes and others teetering on spindly high heels that defied balance — to receive their diplomas and congratulations.
That left one more stop to be made before leaving the stage, a moment for each student to slip the tassel on his or her mortarboard from the right side to the left.
Once all the graduates were back in their seats, Waclawski brought the evening — and the students’ time at Homer High — to a close, drawing the loudest cheers of the evening, whistles, horn blasts and a cloud of hats tossed into the air.
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at email@example.com.
Homer High School
Class of 2014
Dannie Mei Finch
John Hitchcock III