Thursday, December 9, 2004
Richie Fults was 17 years old and had already devoted two years of his life to high school when the classmates with whom he would later graduate joined him as freshman. The special needs student needed six years, not the typical four, to file into the same Henderson Stadium graduation line down which he had watched two of his previous classes walk.
On June 4, he walked too.
And when the student speaker called his name to stand on the stage and accept the certificate for which he had worked so long, his 257 classmates and the audience of roughly 2,500 friends and family erupted into the most enthusiastic applause of the ceremony.
The applause followed all of the 258 graduates as they accepted their diplomas at with handshakes and sometimes hugs, while blanketed in the last evening hours of a week’s worth of summertime weather.
Minutes earlier, in her graduation speech, Treshia Sewell urged her classmates to reject the monetary measure of success and instead, measure their own self worth with characteristics such as compassion and patience. Daniela Najera delivered her graduation speech in Spanish.
The ceremony featured 12 valedictorians, including Henry Burton, a future student of the prestigious Massachusetts Williams College and claimant to the highest score on the American High School Math Exam.
Burton was just one of two male valedictorians – the other being Peter Dills – who managed to maintain a 4.0 grade point average throughout the four years of high school.
This is a continuance of a trend in Hood River Valley High School.
“I think it has a lot to do with expectations,” said Hood River Valley High School valedictorian coordinator Jennifer Schlosser to the question of why female valedictorians consistently outnumber their male counterparts. “Girls are much more involved in things. Being leaders. Running things.”
The last time Hood River males earned even close to as many valedictorian titles as did the females was in 1998. Then, Hood River presented four male valedictorians and five females. 1999, however, triggered a three-year drought, during which the classes of 1999, 2000 and 2001 failed to produce a single male valedictorian. During that same three-year time period, 23 females were honored as valedictorians.
Currently, grade point average is the single measure the school uses to determine its valedictorians. But starting with the 2006 academic year, the high school will consider class difficulty and grade point average.
After the ceremony, a handful of graduates answered how they felt about finishing school and what they were going to do with their brand-new independence. Here is how they responded:
Jon Wherry – “Oh. (sigh). It's exciting. I can be charged as an adult now. And I can register to vote.”
Pepe Contreras – “It’s exciting. I’m looking forward to the next step – college.” (Contreras is the first in his family to graduate).
Ben Holmes – “It’s kind of weird, actually. But right now, I’m pretty excited. I’m just glad to be done with it.”
John Logan – “It definitely lived up to the hype and excitement. I’m going to be a real firefighter now. I’m going to Portland Community College or to Central Oregon Community College.”
Gary Rawlings – “It’s a lot of fun. I’m just glad I made it through graduation without this embarrassing story being told about me – getting stuck in the playground equipment at Westside Elementary School.”
Jake Pruitt – “It was pretty exciting. I’m ready for college and for the Air Force. I hope everyone does well in life. It’s gonna be hard losing touch with them.”
Nancy Rodriguez-Ortega – “I feel free. I’m going to a culinary arts school in Portland. Then I’ll be a chef.”
Chris Perry – “It’s a lot of weight off my shoulders. But it’s kind of sad, how tight our class is, you know. I’m moving in with my brother in Portland and going to go the community college there.”
Andy Rust – “Right now it’s overwhelming. You look forward to graduation all of high school. Now that it’s happened and everybody’s talking about moving. You want it back. All those memories. You want them back. I’m going to Oregon State University to study agriculture business management. I want to be a farmer. Somebody’s got to feed the world.”
Nelle Smith – “I’m going to be successful for the rest of my life. I’m going to a Portland college. I don’t know which one. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t really matter.”
Alex Lozano – “I don’t know how it feels. I guess it feels good to move on. It’s a change. I’m going to PSU (Portland State University). My time has come. Now it’s somebody else’s time to shine.”
Jodie Pounders – “It feels odd. It doesn’t feel real. Surreal. You know. It doesn’t feel sad, but yeah. It does. I’m going to study journalism at Portland State.”
Samantha Wade – “It hasn’t really hit me yet. It’s exciting and scary. Scary because the future is unknown. I’m going to Western Oregon University. Moving away from my friends. That part is really sad. But it will be fun too, because we’ll always get together.”
Liz Jeffries – “I feel happy and excited. Sad that it’s the end. But there’s more ahead. I’m going to Mount Hood Community College.”
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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"
Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge