Words of wisdom send Mount Shasta High grads into the future

Skye Kinkade
New Mount Shasta High School graduates toss their caps into the air in celebration at the conclusion of their commencement ceremony Friday evening. More photos can be found at  Photo by Skye Kinkade

Take time to stop and smell the roses, salutatorian Katherine Holst said. Never give up, urged keynote speaker Sue Villarreal. You only live once, said senior class president Kevin Shinohara. Don’t you worry child, advised valedictorian Julie Ostrowski. Stand for what you believe in, even if you’re standing alone, said co-valedictorian Mariah Althaus. Move forward with the best of who you are, and with all your heart, said principal Jennifer McKinnon.

These gems of advice and many more were dispensed as a light breeze rustled the graduates’ tassels and blue gowns Friday evening, June 7, during Mount Shasta High School’s commencement ceremony, held outdoors at Joe Blevins Memorial Stadium.

Several of the student speakers mentioned the benefits of growing up in a supportive, tight knit community. Many thanked the hard work of their teachers.

Co-salutatorian Tess Abbott said, “Although at times it can feel a little claustrophobic when we see so many teachers so often at the grocery store, the Billy Goat – or in my case, every day in the living room – we are truly blessed to be surrounded by them... The classroom is not the only place where we will seek lessons now, because together we have blurred the lines between school and life.”

Shinohara talked about the expression “yolo” made popular by the rapper Drake and how the acronym for “You Only Live Once” was misinterpreted to mean do whatever stupid thing you want, because you don’t get another chance.

“But really, why do people say yolo?” Shinohara asked the crowd. “Instead of using it as an expression to do whatever you want, use it as an expression to live life right, because really, you only get one chance... So go out and experience new things! Do what makes you happy and try something you’ve never done.”

Holst spoke about her tendency to walk quickly, much like her father does when walking through the hospital, and her recent revelation that taking time to enjoy the little things is important.

“In the past year, watching and experiencing my amazing mom’s fight against breast cancer, I’ve come to the awareness of how much the small things matter,” Holst said. “Things that with my speed-walking tendencies, I have missed. Things like waking up in the morning and feeling well, like being able to enjoy a simple meal without being nauseous, things like hair and fingernails and the tiny things that most of us rush past.

“Graduation is about moving on,” Holst continued, “But in our tunnel vision path to graduation and college or whatever comes next, I think sometimes we lose sight of what is happening now, in the present... Enjoy this moment, and don’t forget to slow down and smell the roses. Even if they are hypothetical.”

“We can change the world; every one of us has the potential to make this planet a better place to live in,” said Althaus. “Whether you become doctors, engineers, soldiers or whatever else, pursue your hopes and dreams with passion. Remember to use your voice and stand by what you say, never be shy to express your opinion... The world is ready for us, and we are ready to change it.”

During her speech, Ostrowski blended the lyrics of songs to create a “found poem.” A found poem, she explained, is an assignment in Les Phillips’ English class where students cut and paste different lines from poetic works and then arrange them into a new poem.

Quoting from songs including The Unlikely Candidates’ “Follow My Feet” and Mackelmore and Ryan Lewis’s “Can’t Hold Us,” Ostrowski shared her feelings of excitement for the future.

“May your life be like chocolate cake baked from scratch... hard work but worth the effort and oh so delicious,” Ostrowski said before introducing the MSHS Jazz Choir, who echoed her words of advice by singing the medley “Save the World” and “Don’t You Worry Child.”

In her keynote speech, Villarreal pointed out the many accomplishments of the Class of 2013, including leading MSHS to be named a California Distinguished School; raising funds for breast cancer awareness, Save the Rain, Pennies for Patients and Jeans for Teens; giving their blood; and volunteering their time for the betterment of their community and the world.

“You have loved and lost and found the courage and the strength within yourselves to go forward in life, despite hard, hard times,” Villarreal said. “You have grown and matured these past four years, making memories, building confidence and knowledge that will last a lifetime.”

Villarreal also shared some things she learned from the class, including the fact that having a “chill” class is a good thing, ways to dance “that I didn’t think were humanly possible,” and the definition of the phrase, “shred the gnar.”

In closing, Villarreal gave one last piece of advice, which comes from Winston Churchill’s 1941 speech entitled, “The Unrelenting Struggle.”

“‘Never give up. Never give up. Never give up.’ Thank you graduates for touching my heart and impacting my life,” Villarreal said.

In her introduction, McKinnon talked about the author Daniel Pink’s theory that the future belongs to creators and emphasizers, pattern recognizers and meaning-makers. He believes, McKinnon said, that people such as artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers and big-picture thinkers will now find a larger place in society and help define its joys and rewards.

“I see these characteristics as well as creativity displayed by this year’s graduates in their work at the high school,” said McKinnon. “As you begin to move ahead with the next chapter in your life story, I encourage you to go forward with the best of who you are, and with all of your heart.”

Siskiyou Union High School District trustee Gregg Gunkel presented each of the graduates with their diploma and Tess Abbott and Janelle Jaegel announced the graduates.

The ceremony was ended with a processional to the Imagine Dragons song, “It’s Time,” with these lyrics echoing behind them:

“It's time to begin, isn't it?

I get a little bit bigger, but then I'll admit

I'm just the same as I was

Don't you understand

That I'm never changing who I am.”