It was a night to remember.
Mercer Island High School graduates and staff members delivered passionate, inspirational and animated speeches and talented musicians sent uplifting tunes wafting into the air at the school’s 65th commencement on June 9 at the accesso ShoWare Center in Kent.
Prior to the ceremony as the graduates gathered backstage, a few of them stood near the exit as raindrops splashed their way, others convened in small groups off to the side of the room and the majority of the students crowded together and loudly chatted as the clock ticked toward starting time.
When the mass of maroon and white hit the main floor, they were all one Islander student community ready to traverse the initial steps toward their future.
Ten valedictorians, all of whom secured 4.0 grade-point averages throughout high school, combined for a humorous and yet serious speech to send the graduates on their way into the world. They are: Kelly Cotter, Jack Drake, Caitlin Garr, Robert Gwertzman, Aidan Klein, Divya Krishnaswamy, Luca Palermo, Ava Rosenbaum, Chase Schubert and Olivia Tomaselli.
“When you face your next project, be it for college, work or personal fulfillment, I implore you all: Take risks. Learn new things. Challenge yourself. And have fun. Because nobody says you can’t,” Klein said.
Added Schubert: “I encourage you to continue to practice empathy, engagement and pursue positive change. Together, we can improve our own universe.”
Krishnaswamy chipped in with, “As we all leave our little Mercer Island universe and venture out into the daunting multiverse of life, this passion and resilience should be spread wherever we go.”
Senior speaker Devon Benaroya let loose with a speech that was full of verve and packed with positive messages all in one. The graduates, staffers and crowd laughed in spots while listening intently the whole way.
“As we sprint toward new chapters and places, we must consider what flags we are going to carry from this small island. Recall the people, the moments, the feelings that matter — waving reminders of survival and hard work and good times,” said Benaroya, who thanked families, friends, teachers and administrators for their support during the four-year high school ride.
Benaroya can’t wait to hear about the graduates’ future accomplishments: “Big things are coming!”
Principal Walter Kelly also addressed the graduates and said they are each fully capable of changing the world in the areas of social justice, health care, world peace, domestic safety, education for all and much more. Making real change is difficult, complicated and will take time to achieve.
“We hope that you are the one that moves us forward and learns these lessons,” he said.
On the music front, the flute duo of Jaimei Goodwin and Cecilia Sommerfield were joined by harpist Garr to perform “Maya” by Ian Clarke; percussion ensemble Christopher Bove, Ryan Huang and Tristan Leung performed “Stubernich” by Mark Ford; and the 12-member Brass Monkeys flowed through “Easy” by The Commodores.