About 185 graduates crossed the stage at Pullman High School’s Hobbs Field Saturday, capping a school year likely to be remembered as one of the more challenging in the school’s history.
The ceremony was a sunny albeit windy affair, with sudden gales rushing through nearby trees and causing occasional chaos when it brushed against a live microphone.
The event marked the conclusion to a school year overshadowed by a deadly pandemic, yet the tone of the commencement was a hopeful one.
Sharing a microphone, graduating seniors Addison Hawes and Kellan Yoshikawa said in their invocation speech that while the year was not without its trials, the students of the class of 2021 learned important lessons, not the least of which was that life can change “in the blink of an eye.”
“We spent so much of our education wanting it to be over, and now we spent the last year of our lives wishing for normalcy for our classrooms, for sports, clubs, and activities, and teachers and the classmates we thought we’d gotten tired of,” Yoshikawa said. “We have learned this hard lesson, and we have learned it young — time slips away and plans that we rely on and have our hearts set on change.”
Even in a year where instruction was largely conducted online, Hawes said the graduating class did not reduce pace and continued to succeed in their classes and be leaders and mentors to other students.
Hawes and Yoshikawa urged their classmates to move forward in life remembering the lessons learned growing up in the tightly-knit Pullman community, no matter where life takes them.
“If there’s one thing you should take away from today, it is this — continue to learn, continue to help others and continue to make a difference, even in the face of adversity,” Yoshikawa said.
“If COVID has taught us anything, it is that our class has the ability to persevere, no matter how big or small the challenge is,” added Hawes. “However, for that to happen, you must continue to learn for the rest of your life. … Knowledge can help you overcome any obstacle, knowledge can never be taken away from you, knowledge can help you open the doors to a better future helping you become the person you were meant to be.”
Pullman High School Principal Juston Pollestad recalled his first day as assistant principal at Lincoln Middle School in 2014 — which was also the class of 2021’s first day attending middle school. In the years that followed, Pollestad would move on to become principal at PHS at the same time these students transitioned to become high school freshmen.
His voice became thick when he told the seniors assembled to graduate how much of a privilege it was to accompany them on their journey through middle and high school before officially calling on “the resilient and unforgettable class of 2021,” to receive their diplomas.
“Seven years was a long time, but only if you measure it in terms of years, because it feels like that time just brushed past us like a stranger in the crowd,” Pollestad said. “It has been an absolute pleasure to watch you go from clinging to your parents’ side at your entry to middle school, to now getting to watch you walk across this stage and on to adulthood.”
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