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Standing ovations given at graduation ceremony

Impassioned speeches marked occasion

 

People take photos after the class of 2018 flips their mortar board tassels. - Scott Hunter photos

It was not the usual graduation Saturday at Lake Roosevelt High School, where announcements of honors and awards earned by graduates, important as they are, were outshone by speeches that honored faculty and staff and told of the determination of the young about to overcome all obstacles.

For Khani Priest, obstacles overcome have steeled her resolve to make it and to help others know that they can too.

"I'm talking to you not only as salutatorian of my class, but also as a Native American student who has carved her own path," she said, after noting that she has experienced the effects of alcohol and drug abuse in her family, the death of her grandmother, "my best friend and my greatest role model" in eighth grade, and severe depression, coming close to suicide. Then her father died, just before the start of her senior year.

But Priest, in addition to graduating as salutatorian, also earned an associate degree from Wenatchee Valley College this year, and has more than $229,000 in scholarship offers.

"I'm going to try to make you understand your life is worth living; your education is worth striving for; life will get better; the trial will pass, and you will come out on top," she said. "You are not alone. Reach out to me, your family or friends."

Priest said everyone has gone through, or is going through, their own trials, and she challenged her classmates to "face down" theirs.

"I, along with the rest of this class, will show you how it's done," she said.

Hers was the second standing ovation of the day.

The first came at the end of Valedictorian Rylee Pitner's speech, which she used to honor educators at LR, particularly math teacher Gary Darnold, who is retiring, and school secretary Sheila Darnold, his wife.

"We all know the absolutely amazing record he has as a track coach," Pitner said of Gary Darnold, "but I don't think enough people recognize how passionate and dedicated he has been for the last 42 years."

A video made by students and staff played with individuals speaking directly into the camera to tell Mr. Darnold what he has meant to them.

Rylee Pitner

"Mrs. Darnold," Pitner said, "is always there for students, no matter what" and "at school every day from sunup to sundown" and "does the work of five people."

She presented them with a Pendleton blanket, which brought audience to their feet.

Gary Darnold, who started teaching in 1976, was also given the Teacher of the Year award. The school's support staff person of the year awards went to Sheila Darnold and Jesse Utz.

The audience also gave a rousing standing ovation for two students who have already enlisted in the military: Casey Cleveland and Dylan Steinert.

The class of 33 graduates, in aggregate, garnered more than $737,000 in scholarships, with 24 of them having been accepted into a college or the military, and were recognized for contributing 4,878 hours of community service during their time at LR.

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