It’s an overly used cliche that each graduating class is unique. More so that each has its own personality. Needless to say, both are true for the Class of 2008.
Clichés aside, this year’s group of graduating seniors is unique in more than one way. With nearly 380 students, it is the largest senior class to walk the hallways of MIHS in decades. It is the first class in Island history to pilot — and complete — the state-imposed Culminating Project. It is the first class to fulfill three WASL requirements: math, reading and writing. And it is the first class, faced with this heap of academic obstacles, to succeed.
But the graduates who marched, cap and gown, Pomp and Circumstance, toward their final night as MIHS seniors last Friday do not think of themselves in such terms. Years down the line, they will forget the WASL. The words “Culminating Project” will seldom pass their lips again. And although they will have countless stories about the Class of 2008, “one of the biggest in Island history,” they will be pressed to remember the actual count.
As graduate John O’Meara sincerely told the Reporter: “I don’t really want our class to be remembered as guinea pigs for the Culminating Project or the ‘bulge class.’ We’re spontaneous. We think outside the box, and we’re hard to define.”
Instead, O’Meara hopes that his class will be remembered for its individual talents and successes.
“I’ve been surrounded by a huge group of kids who’ve all found success. I love ’em to death, and I will definitely miss them,” he said.
Graduation is a time to remember individuals.
“Adam George, Maddie Benz, Tom Eddy, Abby Trimble — these guys were only in my class for one year, but they impacted me forever with their great character, their depth of human understanding, their self-awareness,” said faculty speaker Curtis Johnston, mentioning a handful of other seniors who have touched him in some way. “I wish I could list all of the people who’ve impacted me. It’s pretty much all of you.”
And Johnston was not the only one to mention names. Almost every speaker at Mercer Island High School’s 51st commencement ceremony mentioned at least two or three unique individuals in the Class of 2008.
“It’s strange to think about what you’ll remember about high school in 20 years,” said O’Meara during his address as class speaker. “I saw my best friends’ ‘Who am I’s’ and realized who we are really depends on the people we love.”
Graduation is about letting go.
“They’re happy tears,” said Jeremy Glassy, whose first born, Benjamin, will be leaving for the University of Oregon next fall. “This last week has been pretty emotional but exciting — from the baccalaureate to the senior awards banquet.”
“I’m really going to miss him,” added Julia Glassy, Benjamin’s younger sister, a freshman at MIHS.
During the closing segment of this year’s ceremony, MIHS Principal John Harrison, in a speech that knit clips of decade-defining music into a generation transcending parable, ended on a note of farewell.
Rather than say goodbye to the students in his own words, Harrison — whose daughter sat among the graduates — chose a timeless song by the Beatles to speak for him.
“There are places I remember all my life though some have changed,” he read. “Some forever not for better, some have gone and some remain … Though I know I’ll never lose affection for people and things that went before. I know I’ll often stop and think about them. In my life I love you more.”
Graduation is about accomplishment. And in this respect, the Island’s seniors have every reason to be proud.
“We’ve been through a lot and this group has succeeded in ways that exceed our expectations,” said O’Meara, speaking of a class with three valedictorians, five National Merit Scholars, six salutatorians, 96 members of the National Honors Society, 168 recipients of the President’s Education Award For Outstanding Academic Excellence, and countless athletic champions, devoted philanthropists, musical sensations, stars of the stage, future artists, leaders, pioneers of science and business entrepreneurs.
The Class of 2008, no doubt, will go on to great things.
“Mercer Island kids know what they want,” Johnston said in his speech. “You guys are born and raised with a sense of purpose, with vision and ambition. And you do have to get out of this place to embrace your goals.”
“As a class, you’re definitely tougher than other high school students,” the English teacher added. “You’re wiser, your more mature and you know how to self advocate. Don’t forget that you have these talents and figure out how to use them to ensure your personal successes.”
Shortly before 10 p.m. on June 6, the Class of 2008, diplomas in hand, left high school behind them — one unforgettable accomplishment, with many more to come.