Alyssa Acosta smiles during her valedictorian speech during Arlington High School’s graduation at Angel of the Winds Arena on Thursday, June 13, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Alyssa Acosta smiles during her valedictorian speech during Arlington High School’s graduation at Angel of the Winds Arena on Thursday, June 13, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

‘So worth it’: Snohomish County graduates step into their futures

Alyssa Acosta, who is Harvard-bound, was one of thousands to walk the stage at Angel of the Winds Arena this month to get high school diplomas.

EVERETT — Alyssa Acosta likes to joke that she sleeps under the stairs at Arlington High School.

Since her daily commute to school is 45 minutes each way from Darrington, she wants to make the most of each day. On top of being cheer captain, Acosta is in Sports Medicine Club, Anatomy Club, Knowledge Bowl, Key Club and two school district committees. She’s also president of the school’s chapter of the National Honor Society.

On top of all that, she managed a 4.0 GPA.

Acosta stands alongside thousands of students graduating from Snohomish County high schools this month. Over four years, the high school graduates watched themselves change as drastically as the world around them. They entered high school in 2020, in the midst of the pandemic.

In their freshman year, they learned and worked from a computer screen, isolated from their peers. This week, the students celebrated their freedom from high school together.

On Wednesday at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, Monroe High School seniors marked graduation adorned in black and orange, the school colors.

As each graduate heard their name called, they walked across the stage with eagerness, uncertainty, excitement and hope.

“I’m scared, but somehow ecstatic about my future,” Monroe grad Mason Edwards said in a speech.

Mason Edwards, chosen by the faculty to speak, delivers an address during Monroe High School’s 2024 commencement on Wednesday, June 12, 2024, at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Mason Edwards, chosen by the faculty to speak, delivers an address during Monroe High School’s 2024 commencement on Wednesday, June 12, 2024, at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Edwards was one of five valedictorians graduating with a 4.0 GPA. Just over 300 seniors from Monroe received a diploma.

“I don’t want to leave what I know, but I’m creating something new,” Edwards told his peers, “and I have nearly nothing figured out about what’s coming. And that’s fine.”

On Saturday, more than 1,200 students will graduate from Everett high schools.

Acosta, who spoke at Arlington’s graduation Thursday, will be the first in her family to attend college. She’s nervous about leaving her friends and family and being alone for the first time.

“Can I succeed as a person? Am I going to be able to not flounder when I’m on my own for the first time?” Acosta said in an interview.

But more so, she’s excited about what lies ahead. She’s headed to Harvard University on a nearly full-ride cheer scholarship. There, she’ll either study mathematics or chemistry and physics.

Despite hours and hours of school work, clubs and sports, Acosta said she never got tired of putting so much into school.

“It doesn’t really feel like a lot, because it’s everything that I love to do,” she said.

Acosta was one of four valedictorians from Arlington.

Students gather with decorated graduation caps before the start of Arlington High School graduation at Angel of the Winds Arena on Thursday, June 13, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Students gather with decorated graduation caps before the start of Arlington High School graduation at Angel of the Winds Arena on Thursday, June 13, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Some days, she would be on campus for 12 hours a day or more. But seeing all her hard work accumulate into the moment she got her diploma was “so worth it,” she said.

Dozens of students graduated with honors and recognitions, like an AP scholar award or a seal of biliteracy. Some even graduated with an associate’s degree.

Getting through high school wasn’t easy for everyone, though.

Tyler Blackburn, chosen by his class to speak, delivers an address during Monroe High School’s 2024 commencement on Wednesday, June 12, 2024, at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Tyler Blackburn, chosen by his class to speak, delivers an address during Monroe High School’s 2024 commencement on Wednesday, June 12, 2024, at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

“I never planned on even graduating, I didn’t have any friends,” Monroe graduate Tyler Blackburn said in a speech.

But over the years, things changed for Blackburn. He made friends, found motivation through working on his car and made it to the stage to receive his diploma. His peers even voted him to be a student speaker at graduation.

In his speech, he emphasized the importance of encouraging others to never give up, like his own friends did for him.

Here are the remaining graduation ceremonies in Snohomish County:

Saturday, June 15

10 a.m. Cascade High School at Angel of the Winds Arena.

2 p.m. Jackson High School at Angel of the Winds Arena.

6 p.m. Everett High School at Angel of the Winds Arena.

Monday, June 17

6:30 p.m. Edmonds-Woodway High School at Edmonds School District Stadium.

Tuesday, June 18

6:30 p.m. Lynnwood High School at Edmonds School District Stadium.

Jenelle Baumbach: 360-352-8623; jenelle.baumbach@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @jenellclar.

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