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Cap and gown for one

Marysville-Pilchuck High School brings graduation to Josh Clifford, a senior who will miss the July 8 ceremony.

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By Eric Stevick / Herald Writer
Published:
MARYSVILLE - Josh Clifford was running late for his last class Friday.
"I'll need a pass," he sheepishly told his counselor, Jill Snow.
His excuse was a good one: Clifford had just graduated from Marysville-Pilchuck High School in what amounted to an ambush commencement ceremony during creative writing class.
About 15 minutes before the bell, in walked principal Tracy VanWinkle in a black commencement gown, followed by a cake- and camera-toting entourage that included Clifford's mother, father and 19-month-old nephew.
VanWinkle handed the unsuspecting senior a cap and gown, honor cords and salutatorian medal to put on.
His crimson cheeks matched his long red gown.
Graduation is July 8 - a date set after Marysville's state record teachers strike last fall. But with a congressional appointment, Clifford is to report for training at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado on July 1.
He would have missed his graduation. Friday was his last day of school so he could prepare for the next chapter in his life.
"I wasn't sure what was going on," Clifford, 18, said afterward. "I'm certainly happy, though."
The school figured if Clifford couldn't come to the commencement, the commencement could come to him.
Clifford still expects to be marching on graduation day, but it won't be in a procession with his classmates.
In a small way, he will still be part of the graduation. His photo in cap and gown will be shown during the ceremonies and his name will be announced as salutatorian.
Clifford was the subject of a benign conspiracy. Classmate Jessica Emge-Hosner wanted to make sure the school's salutatorian was recognized, and Snow, the counselor, did as well.
"I felt he deserved something," Emge-Hosner said. "I think he is pretty embarrassed."
Clifford's father, Bob, said he appreciated the special touch. He has watched how hard his son has worked over the years and chuckles at the memories.
Josh Clifford, for instance, is the one who had to ask his dad to turn down his country music while he was studying.
"He is more mature than I am," Bob Clifford said.
Reporter Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446 or stevick@heraldnet.com.

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