Skylar Wilkins praised her class’ unwavering trust in each other. photo by Jerry Baldock
Skylar Wilkins praised her class’ unwavering trust in each other. photo by Jerry Baldock
The theme of the Sisters High School Class of 2021 motto shone throughout commencement ceremonies held outdoors at Reed Stadium on a perfect late spring evening on Friday, June 4. The motto, a quote from Morgan Harper Nichols says, “Going through things you never thought you’d go through will only take you to places you never thought you’d get to.”

Principal Joe Hosang elicited applause as he welcomed everyone to the ceremony, saying enthusiastically, “We are together!”

He gave credit to the class for pushing to have commencement outdoors so that the number of family and friends able to attend could be maximized.

Hosang also took the time to acknowledge the loss of two members of the class in September, Lala Debari and Geneva Tallman, saying, “I know there is nothing we can offer today to take away the grief and heartache these two families are experiencing from their loss, yet both families do want us to remember the girls for what they gave us.”

He continued, “We will miss these two Outlaws very much. They will always be with us and they will always be Outlaws.”

Before turning over the microphone to the valedictorians, Hosang acknowledged the deep contributions of three staff members who are retiring this year: teachers Tony Cosby and Kristy Rawls, and Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Resource Officer Brent Crosswhite.

The losses and the many other ups and downs of finishing high school with 16 months of pandemic worries, restrictions, and adaptations was certainly a challenge to the graduates, as attested by the eight valedictorians who strung together a series of short speeches.

Sam May set a light-hearted but thoughtful tone to open the speeches, beginning with a sincere thank-you to parents, teachers, coaches, and the community.

“I need to express how much every one of you who have helped us, supported us, shared our struggles and successes, carried our loads, and persevered alongside us on this journey called high school,” he said.

May proceeded to illustrate the “ups and downs” during the pandemic by relating a humorous story of taking, without permission, a brand-new chair his father had purchased to school the day before school shutdown in March 2020, where it became locked up for months, leaving his father to wonder what had happened to it. May pulled out the chair from behind the podium and illustrated how it could go up and down, just like life over the past year.

Rachelle Dale spoke of the resilience her classmates demonstrated.

She said, “You didn’t give up on our education; didn’t give up on coming back to school, didn’t give up on having a prom, and didn’t give up about being here together, as a community, to graduate.”

Community was the theme for Sarah Kissinger, who said “Our class here has both talent and the willingness to put their own glory aside to help others. The community we’ve built here is one I feel confident I’ll be calling on when I’m homesick at college, needing help on a project, or just to hear a familiar voice.”

Sarah Leonard referred to laughter being an absolute necessity to get through senior year successfully. “The great thing about our class is our ability to turn anything and everything into a laughing matter. Using humor is the best answer I have found as a coping mechanism,” she said.

Maliah Mandal used a bit of humor as she focused on the growth she has seen in herself and her classmates and shared her expectation of how that will continue.

She said, “If I’ve learned one thing from our class, it’s that there is no limit to the amount of growth a person or a group can have. So, I would like to applaud not only our mental growth, but also our growth in terms of fashion choices.”

Will Thorsett continued on the theme of change and spoke of the faith he has in his classmates to make a difference in whatever community they find themselves in.

“Injecting a member of the SHS class of 2021 into any social group will immediately cause positive growth,” he said.

Mary Root reflected on the loss of two classmates early in the school year as well as the other losses many families experienced during the pandemic, and concluded speaking about grit.

“So for those who are not present today, including family or friends and our classmates, Lala and Geneva, let’s take a moment of silence. We will never forget who they are and how much they mean to us.”

She continued, “While not everyone of us can say that we feel stronger from this year, we can all agree we have developed some grit.”

Wrapping up the team of speakers, Skylar Wilkins touched on community, growth, resilience, and wisdom acquired from teachers along the journey.

She said, “As a class we are resilient. We have weathered the stormy seas with an easygoing manner and have been unwavering in our trust in each other and ourselves. We are a community. Some of the strongest bonds I have ever seen have been between you all as you help each other be better every day.”

Before the class of 2021 received their diplomas, they carried on the traditions of a class song, performed via video, the presentation of flowers to loved ones, and a pictorial video featuring graduates.

Then, one by one, the 104 graduates had their moment at center stage to acknowledge the completion of high school. When Hosang instructed them to move their tassels, symbolizing their transition to a new era of life, mortar boards flew into the pink-clouded twilight sky amid cheers, hugs, and laughter.

And with that, the class song “It’s the End of the World As We Know It” by R.E.M. boomed from the speakers, and the graduates made their way off the field to meet with family and friends.