ARLINGTON — Within two weeks, four Arlington and Darrington-area schools have presented both diplomas and well-wishes to this year’s graduating classes.
Arlington High School
On June 10, AHS bid farewell to its graduating class of 2008, whose members distinguished themselves before they even entered high school.
AHS Class of 2008 Valedictorian Emily Barry compared the future to a Grand Canyon-sized abyss of unknowns, and encouraged her classmates to prepare for this unknown future by looking to their childhoods.
“Remember back to the days of tromping around butt-naked,” Barry said, drawing laughter from the crowd. “Maybe if we rekindle some of our childlike antics, we can greet this unfamiliar world with the same courageousness we had back then.”
Barry urged her classmates to approach everything “with a savage curiosity” and to “say goodbye to your inhibitions.” She encouraged their explorations by pointing out, “If we did it 18 years ago, we can certainly do it now.”
For outgoing Arlington School District Superintendent Linda Byrnes, this graduation marked the end of an era. Not only was she given her own cap and tassel, to “graduate” alongside the class of 2008, but she also paid tribute to this year’s graduates for stepping up on behalf of their community four years ago, back when they were still in middle school.
“I watched this class respond to the cross-burning at the Martin family home,” Byrnes said. “It really wasn’t your problem to solve — the community and the authorities were talking about what to do — but you walked right up and said, ‘Excuse me, would it be okay if we organized a march to say that we believe in justice, equality and acceptance?’”
Byrnes deemed the students “the perfect people to solve the problem,” precisely because they had no authority and “no one expected you to get involved,” but they did anyway, simply because it was the right thing to do.
Darrington High School
The DHS graduating class of 2008 boasted 50 students, who turned their tassels June 7.
DHS Class of 2008 Valedictorian Ryan Cave advised his classmates to take leaps of faith, while remembering their roots.
“When you walk to the edge of all the light you have, and take that step into the darkness of the unknown, you must believe one of two things will happen,” Cave said, quoting his grandmother. “There will be something solid for you to stand on, or you will learn how to fly.”
Cave thanked the students’ families and educators for guiding their growth, and asserted that, “just because we came from a small community, that doesn’t mean that we can’t achieve great things.”
Darrington Middle School teacher and coach Cameron Ross fondly recalled how “some of these guys and gals were the first group of seventh-graders that I taught at the middle school.” He went on to note how much they’d grown since then, in character as well as size.
Ross warned the students that their lives would change now, since “your bosses or professors aren’t going to buy your excuses, and you guys have had some great excuses,” but he reassured them that the love and support of their families is one thing that will not change.
Highland Christian Schools
June 6 marked the first official graduation of Highland, formerly Master’s Touch Christian School.
Highland Class of 2008 Valedictorian Sarah Brown took pride in how much her 15-member class had learned, both in and out of the classroom, before she cited the most important lesson as the value of giving back.
“It’s not what you take when you leave this world behind you,” Sarah Brown quoted the lyrics of the song “Three Wooden Crosses.” “It’s what you leave behind when you go.”
Brown went on to quote Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken,” comparing it to the path that she and her classmates have followed as Christians, and urging her classmates to use their “God-given gifts” to make a difference in the world.
Highland Principal Mark Brown cited the amount of work that the class had done on the school facility, including reinstalling the seats that the audience was sitting in.
“I’ve yet to hear this class say, ‘It’s not our problem, because we’re out of here,’” Mark Brown said. “They’ve literally left this school a better place than when they found it.”
Weston High School
The five-member Weston graduating class of 2008 included one of its youngest graduates ever, Valedictorian Martin Scarbrough, who turns 17, July 2.
At the June 11 graduation, Scarbrough cited the small size of Weston’s student body as a positive, by arguing that it short-circuits cliques and enables educators to focus more individual attention on each student.
“Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth,” Scarbrough quoted John F. Kennedy, applying the former president’s thoughts on government to his classmates’ choice to attend an alternative school such as Weston. He then added that, “in retrospect, we sort of had a back seat to our own lives, but now, we’re driving.”
Byrnes praised Scarbrough’s graduation speech as “one of the finest I’ve heard in 30 years,” before she compared the graduates’ upcoming adult lives to a cafeteria, drawing laughter from the audience, since they were seated in Weston’s cafeteria.
“You can get anything you want, as long as you’re willing to pay the price,” Byrnes said. “And nobody will get it for you, so you have to be ready to get it for yourselves.”