‘Be grateful for everything you have’: Edmonds-Woodway HS graduates 319

The Edmonds-Woodway High School Class of 2024 stands for the National Anthem.

Edmonds-Woodway High School staff, families and students gathered under gray skies  June 10 to celebrate the graduation of 319 students.

Close to 1,000 friends and families of the graduating class gathered in the bleachers of the Edmonds School District Stadium to watch the students as they completed their high school careers, which started not long before a global pandemic.

Edmonds-Woodway High School Principal Allison Larsen welcomes friends and families of the Class of 2024.
American Sign Language interpreters were provided to students who were deaf or hard of hearing.

Principal Allison Larsen led the ceremony and welcomed the students and guests. Superintendent Rebecca Miner, Assistant Superintendent Helen Joung, and Edmonds School Board Director Debora Kilgore accompanied her.

Larsen said that when the students returned to classrooms after the pandemic lockdown, they had to develop a new rhythm to their lives, like a song, but with graduation, “that song has changed.”

Senior class speaker Kira Sutcliffe recalls the challenges of the pandemic during her freshman year.

The first speaker Larsen introduced was Kira Sutcliffe. She is a member of the Principal’s Hall of Fame, one of 127 students awarded the Gold Honor Cord for holding a 3.6 – 4.0 GPA. She was National Honor Society “Taeda” Chapter member and an Edmonds-Woodway High School student of the month. Sutcliffe will attend George Washington University.

“When we started high school, a day like today was impossible for me to imagine,” Sutcliffe said.

She spoke of the rough start to their four-year high school journey caused by the COVID-19 pandemic “dominating” everything in their lives.

“All I really remember from my freshman year was watching my teachers trying to figure out how to mute their microphone while they ate lunch,” Sutcliffe said.

However, she credits the pandemic with helping her become more intentional with her time. She will remember connecting with her fellow students and her in-person experiences from high school.

“What we do with our time, our one shot at this life, going forward, is up to us now,” Sutcliffe said. “Today is the first day of the rest of our lives.”

Senior Class President Connor Sinnett speaks of the friends he made during high school.

The second speaker was Senior Class President Connor Sinnett, one of 38 students awarded the Silver Honor Cord for holding a 3.3 – 3.59 GPA. He is a member of the National Honor Society’s “Taeda” Chapter and will attend the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.

“When I was asked to give this speech, I decided to approach it like a true Edmonds-Woodway student,” Sinnett said. “So, at 11 last night, when I started writing…” 

Sinnett also reflected on the impact that COVID-19 had on himself and the graduating class, which seemed to blur time.

“Two weeks turned into two months, which turned into remote learning, which turned into missed milestones and endless hours behind the computer screen, awake or otherwise,” Sinnett said. “I entered high school not knowing anyone in the midst of a pandemic where time seemed to stand still.”

But Sinnett made friends and even became the senior class president.

“As we sit here today, we are a testament that we are not defined by the circumstances we face but by our response to these circumstances.”

Senior Pablo Ferreira Hernandez spoke of learning English in high school and visualizing success.

The next student speaker was one of 41 graduates earning a Seal of Biliteracy. Pablo Ferreira Hernandez spoke of coming to Seattle in 2019 and not knowing English when he entered high school.

“The first time I went to school, it was very challenging, but challenges make life worth living,” Hernandez said.

He continued by saying that he realized he had a goal to accomplish, and from that moment forward, he visualized success and how to achieve it.

“Enjoy every single second of your life, as you never know when it’s going to be the last time,” Hernandez said. “Enjoy the time with your family and friends, and be grateful for everything you have.”

Retiring drama and English teacher Bruce Mindt told the students they have the tools to do hard things.

Next was the faculty speaker selected by the senior class, Bruce Mindt, who served 35 years as the school’s drama teacher and is retiring this year.  Mindt was also the ASB coordinator known as the voice of the morning announcements for Edmonds-Woodway High School where he deemed Thursday the best day of the week.

He thanked the staff for their hard work as educators and their contributions to helping the students graduate. He also opened his speech with humor.

The Edmonds-Woodway staff stand to be for recognized for their work.

“I am not sure why Ms. Larsen allowed this; allowing a retired teacher to speak at a graduation ceremony is risky. I could say anything. What’s going to happen? It’s hard to fire me now.”

He recounted significant school sports and music achievements of the 2023-2024 school year. However, all of those are now in the past and are part of a long list of “never again.” The graduating students will never again need a hall pass to use the restroom or be shepherded to classes before they are late.

Mindt said his speech’s theme was to appreciate the past and enthusiastically embrace the future.

“Oh, you know what that means, an essay’s coming,” Mindt said.

Vocal performances from the Edmonds-Woodway High School jazz choir, the Mello-Aires, were led by Charlotte Reese.
The Edmonds-Woodway band puts on ponchos as the rain continues to pick up during the graduation.

He asked the graduates to reflect on when they started school 13 years ago when most of them could not read but learned how to. Then, in third grade, they learned multiplication and learned algebra in middle school, along with entry-level lab classes.

By high school, Mindt said they learned how to write research papers and some cringe-worthy slang, such as “rizz.” However, they still have not “garnered any substantial commercial gain.”

Mindt said the students had created a foundation they could rely on for the future. 

“You can do hard things; I’ve seen it. You have the tools,” Mindt said.

Principal Allison Larsen, left, stands next to Associated Student Body President Lily Wilson while she presents the Class of 2024.

Edmonds-Woodway Associated Student Body President Lily Wilson presented the Class of 2024 to Principal Larsen, who then called for the graduates to receive their diplomas.

After students had their diplomas, Sinnett announced the change of the tassels, followed by the traditional tossing of the mortar cap.

The moment the seniors were declared graduates, the caps went flying.

The graduation can be seen in its entirety here. (Note that there are low volume levels during the recording.)

(Connor Sinnett is no relation to My Neighborhood News Network’s reporter Rick Sinnett.)

— Story and photos by Rick Sinnett

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