Its hard to believe that just about twelve years ago we were packing our G.I. Joe and Barbie lunch boxes full of fruit snacks and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on our way out the door to our first day of grade school. Mom would search frantically for the camera to make sure she could get that perfect Kodak moment with all our new school clothes on. Myself, I was modeling the new limited edition Looney Toons Tasmanian devil backpack, and I was proud of it. Then off we went, courageously stepping into an unknown world of finger-painting, ABC’s, and 123’s. We were daring, we were bold.
We fought our way through the trials and tribulations of elementary school. Mastering the art of the monkey bars, sucking up to our recess teachers as not to get in trouble. Living one day at a time in a world where a little kiss on the cheek was the biggest thing since marshmallows in cereal. And then there was tetherball, to some, a life-and-death sport. It was here I believe that we first learned the skills of handling confrontation. We had no referee in those days. We had to settle our disputes right there on the hot concrete, in front of our peers, our friends, our crushes. It was here where some of us found our first true friends. You know that you have a true friend when you are in the middle of a heated match, you clearly grab the tetherball with your hands and the whole line starts calling holding, holding, majority rules, but there is one lone ranger trying to fight them off. One guy, or girl, telling them that it wasn’t holding, and that you were merely gripping the ball as you hit it. That was an example of friendship at its finest. Tetherball was big time. The news of anyone our age beating a sixth grader at this sport would spread around the school like wildfire.
And then the day came when we were finally sixth graders. The big toy was ours, and the wait was well worthwhile. We had watched the upperclassmen ahead of us, and now it was our turn to put on the big shoes. So, we did. We were the top dogs that year, but only to soon outgrow those sneakers and step into a new world, what most would call junior high school.
Once again we were small fish in a big pond. We suddenly got slammed with a new daily life to call school. Instead of staying with the same group of people all day, we were now to walk around to different rooms? It was quite intriguing to me. I saw this as an opportunity to meet new people and make new friends. But wait, what was this, no recess? It was a hard thought to ponder, sitting in classrooms all day long without being able to throw a football or have some fun. But we adjusted, carried on. We couldn’t let it get us down. We were stronger than that. At first, we stuck together in Junior High with the groups of kids who we knew, those who we had grown up with, our close friends. But as time progressed, our horizons broadened, we met new people and maybe started sitting with a new face or two during lunch. As eighth and ninth grade rolled around, we suddenly found ourselves hanging out with new kids on the weekends. Then, before we knew it, it was on to the next step in our lives. We’d made new friends, increased our knowledge, and were ready to tackle the next stage: high school. But who could forget the memories we had during our junior high days? Getting slammed with infractions for chewing gum in class, square dancing in the gym to “Pink Cadillac,” getting lunchroom duty for squirting ketchup into our friends fruit punch. It was those memories that kept smiles on our faces as we entered a somewhat intimidating new world.
We entered Woodinville High School with curiosity and excitement. Since two junior highs fed into the high school, we now realized that there were quite a few new faces to meet. It took some time, but by the time junior year rolled around we were beginning to feel like a family of falcons as opposed to a pack of lions or wolves. I remember watching last year’s seniors at the moving up assembly, as they told us to enjoy our senior year, because it goes by faster than you would ever believe. They couldn’t have been more right.
As we are now in the process of graduating, we sit back and think about everything that makes high school so enjoyable. Who could forget the day that some of us finally got our long-awaited license. Freedom was finally ours! But then of course, who could forget the day that some of us got our first ticket, or second, or third, or fourth. Anyway, I think the important aspect there is that we have learned responsibility. And then there was football. There was nothing better than getting decked out in green and cheering our falcons on to victory under those Friday night lights. Watching some of our friends in the summer of sixth grade come one run short of a trip to the Little League World Series in Pennsylvania, then later go on to win a 4A State Championship our sophomore year. A nationally-recognized Scotland-bound drama program, Deca program ranked first in the nation, Zach Plude and Robb Schmitt making an appearance at our homecoming assembly dressed as Redmond cheerleaders. These are all honors, memories, and experiences that will stick with us for the rest of our lives.
And thus, here we are. I am standing here in front of you speaking at the graduation ceremony for Woodinville High School’s class of 2004. The day is finally here, the peak of our educational lives up until this point, and while we may be closing the door behind us, we are opening another right down the hall. We are one step closer to the real world now, and our past experiences have made us who we are today. It is exciting. I know that some of us have been anticipating living on our own and managing for ourselves for a while now. I on the other hand I am not as excited as others. Now don’t get me wrong, I am eager for the next step in our lives and can’t wait for college. But at the same time I am keeping one foot in the door. I love life in Woodinville, Wash. It is comforting to know that at 6:00, dinner will be on the table, and that somehow, my dirty clothes magically turn into freshly folded laundry. It’s the simple things that we sometimes take for granted in life. I love life at Woodinville High School. It is such a great feeling in-between classes knowing that someone will greet me with a smile in the halls. It’s great to know that we have teachers who care about us, not only our grades, but what is happening in our lives as well. I love knowing that when one year is over, I will be coming back to the same school after a great summer, with the same friends whom I care about, and who care about me. These are some things that we will miss once we enter college or the real world. There are so many things that we get out of our high school experience: a well-rounded education, positive work ethics, our ability to interact with our peers. But what has meant the most to me and will be traveling with me in the years to come are the friendships I have made. Whether I have known someone since we were three years old, or whether I just met them last week at a baseball game, I will never forget the relationships we have made. So, no matter what the future has in store for us, we will always have our memories to put a smile on our face, and a place to call home.
So it’s time we take out our G.I. Joe and Barbie lunch boxes once again, only this time, try something new. Maybe instead of a PB&J, try a turkey sandwich, because it is now on to the next step in our lives, which will be full of new doors to open and choices to make. But as you sit here tonight, look around. Look at the sea of white and green consisting of your fellow classmates. Know what makes each one of them unique and different from the other. And encourage them in the next step of their lives. And most importantly, never forget the valuable friendships you have made, the ones who stuck up for you on that hot tetherball court. Every one of you will forever hold a special place in my heart.