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Mercer Island sends off 345 graduates

Mercer Island High School’s class of 2011 made the transition from childhood to adulthood on Thursday night at their graduation, held at the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue.

Faculty speaker Colin Bush gave the most compelling speech of the night, starting with, “I’ll keep this short so we can get this party started.”

Full of humor, mixed with sincere emotion, Bush said he was so nervous about speaking in front of hundreds of people that he was hoping graduation would be canceled. In a jab at the district for their snow day policy, Bush said, “There had been warmer, sunnier snow days than today.”

The theme of his message was for the graduates to reinvent themselves.

“Reinvent who you are,” he said. “You can become the engaging person you want to be.”

The graduates marched into the hall to “Pomp and Circumstance,” performed by the MIHS marching band. Once seated, senior class president Ben Poor welcomed family and friends, followed by a beautifully delivered national anthem by senior Brynne Agnew.

MIHS principal John Harrison then welcomed the audience.

“Graduation is a beginning and an ending; with all the love in this building, it’s bound to be full of emotion,” he said before certifying the class.

And indeed the evening was full of emotion. Proud parents rushed to take photos of their son or daughter as they descended the ramp leading off the stage after they received their long-awaited diplomas.

Valedictorians Steven Adler, Elizabeth Chang, Nicholas Goelz, Andrew Wingerson and Miriam Zawadzki began their presentation with a story about a catfish swimming in his pool who suddenly comes across a magic lantern. He rubs it, of course, and out pops a genie to grant him a wish. The catfish wants to go up, out of the pond, and his wish is granted. Exhilarated, he returns to the pond and tells a trout that there is a whole other world out there. All the trout has to say is, “Oh, my God, a talking catfish!”

Their point was, they were all the catfish about to leave the pond, responsible to make their own lives now.

Fine musical performances punctuated the ceremony. Kevin Chung on cello, Ryan Fang on piano and Martin Ho on violin played a lovely piece by Norihiro Tsuru called “Last Carnival,” while the jazz choir seniors wowed the crowd with a stunning rendition of the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows.”

Some cheering sections were louder than others, and the occasional air horn split the air, but each graduate was celebrated to heartfelt applause.

It was also impressive that the various faculty who announced each graduate didn’t seem to horribly butcher anyone’s name — some of which were quite tricky.

Harrison’s final comments were that he was very, very proud of the class of 2011, which he called a great class. He said that the media is critical of today’s youth, but he believes they are really not that different from today’s adults.

“The kids are alright,” Harrison said. “Today’s kids have strong values and are remarkably optimistic.”

 

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