MTHS grads challenged to change and grow during 2017 commencement ceremony

The 303 graduates in the Mountlake Terrace High School Class of 2017 were cheered and challenged during their commencement ceremony held Saturday at Edmonds Stadium.

About 275 members of the Class of 2017 took part in the afternoon ceremony and received their diplomas from MTHS Principal Greg Schwab, Edmonds School District Superintendent Kristine McDuffy, district Assistant Superintendent Patrick Murphy and district School Board members Carin Chase and Ann McMurray.

A theme of embracing the challenges that come with change and growing from them permeated throughout the messages presented by five student speakers from the MTHS Class of 2017.

The Associated Student Body (ASB) President Hani Nakkour set the tone early in the commencement addresses. “I associate change with growth,” he said, “and graduation is the epitome of change.”

The Senior Class President Aarthi Yogendran took a very personal approach during her message, using examples from her four years at Terrace that show how fellow graduates can bring growth and change to areas around them.

“Through Key Club and community service, I’ve learned that through any act of service or kindness anyone can make a difference in the world,” she said.

Selected by the MTHS staff to speak at commencement, Natnael Abraham — an immigrant from the East African country of Eritrea — told his story of going from a 300 square-foot home in the country’s capital of Asmara to becoming his family’s first high school graduate.

“I was not going to take America for granted,” Abraham explained. “I promised myself that I was going to work my hardest to reach my dream of going to college.”

The next change for Abraham will be attending the University of Washington this fall.

Honor Society selectee Judy Tran continued the theme of growth and change in her speech. “I learned a lot of very important things these last four years,” she shared, “but the most important lesson I’ve learned — and the one that took me the longest to understand — was that growth is impossible without fear.”

Tran ended her time at the podium with a direct message to her fellow graduates: “Do not let fear rule your life; challenge it, overcome it, allow it to help you grow. And certainly don’t let it stop you.”

Alexandria Ned began her message with a tribute to Kandra Tan, who would have been a member of the MTHS Class of 2017 but was killed in November 2015 in what was ruled a murder-suicide. “She would have been sitting here amongst us graduating today,” Ned remembered.

Ned continued her poetic message stressing that life is fleeting. “No one can tell you to do with the time their given,” she said. “I know this is cliché and dumb to say, but live life like YOLO (you only live once). And if you want to get fancy with it: carpe diem. P.S.: I failed French.”

“Wait, I think that was Latin,” she added with a smile.

Even Schwab recognized that the day signified big change, not just for the graduates but for him too. “Thirteen years ago we all started this journey together — you as kindergarteners and me as the principal here at Mountlake Terrace High School,” he said. “Today is final passage for both of us.”

Schwab is leaving the top job at Terrace to become Edmonds School District Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Schools in July.

More than 200 of the MTHS Class of 2017 graduates will be attending college in the fall, with others are choosing military service, apprentice programs or jumping directly into employment.

–By Doug Petrowski

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