Nine 'velveteen rabbits' graduate from Griffin Bay

Superintendent Michael Soltman beams at Felix C. Padilla as Kim Norton announces Padilla
Superintendent Michael Soltman beams at Felix C. Padilla as Kim Norton announces Padilla's receipt of the Arthur McGovern Scholarship. The scholarship is renewable for an additional year and is worth $1,000. An anonymous islander matched the scholarship for one year, giving Padilla $2,000 his first year.
— image credit: Maddie Leiren

Ninety-five friends and family members gathered Saturday afternoon in the Friday Harbor Middle School commons to celebrate the graduation of nine seniors from Griffin Bay High School.

As they entered the room, Abby Kitchen, who graduated from Griffin Bay last year and is now majoring in music at Seattle Pacific University, played the prelude on piano. She played a collection of different classical pieces, including "Butterfly Op." by Edvard Grieg, a Norwegian composer.

Nine chairs sat on the stage, each with green and gold — Griffin Bay High School’s colors — balloons tied to them. Eight seniors filled the chairs; Jordan Ree Caudill was unable to attend the ceremony.

Kim Norton, head teacher at Griffin Bay High, welcomed the group of friends and family, then introduced each of the seniors, who talked about quotes they selected that reflected their outlook on life.

Kestrel Bailey quoted the 19th century theologian William Shedd, “A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”

“We’re not made to sit in a harbor,” said Bailey, who also graduated from Skagit Valley College with an associate’s degree. Bailey said she planned to go to bible college in New Zealand for six months, then will study photography with the goal of becoming a photojournalist.

Carissa Marie Crosslin-Hashim quoted Jeremy Schewartz, “Life is like a ten-speed; there are always gears you do not use.” Crosslin-Hashim will take one year off of school, then attend Western Culinary Arts School.

Jordan Fessenden, an apprentice electrician, quoted Aristotle, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

Fessenden said, "There is wisdom to be learned in other’s words.”

Yesenia Guizar-Olvera also quoted Aristotle, “Happiness depends upon ourselves.” Guizar-Olvera is married and has a daughter, Alina, 1.

“It was pretty hard at the beginning,” Guizar-Olvera said of mixing motherhood and school. The fact she could take her daughter to Griffin Bay High was one of the reasons she said she was able to graduate.

Guizar-Olvera is fluent in three languages: English, Spanish, and American Sign Language. She wants to go to college and major in Sign Language.

Daniel B. Laws is going into the military. Laws quoted former Texas governor Ann Richards, “There is a lot more to life than just struggling to make money."

Lacy Marie O’Brian is going to college to become a chef. O’Brian quoted Dale Carnegie, “Don’t be afraid to try your best to what seemingly are small jobs. Every time you conquer one it makes you that much stronger. If you do the little jobs well, the big ones will tend to take care of themselves."

O’Brian said with a smile, “I took one day at a time. Look where I am now.”

Felix C. Padilla has been earning money working in a restaurant and won the Arthur McGovern Scholarship in support of his dream of becoming a chef. The scholarship is renewable for an additional year and is worth $1,000. An anonymous islander matched the scholarship for one year, giving Padilla $2,000 his first year.

Padilla quoted Aldous Huxley, “There’s only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self."

Tyler Schubert quoted the comedian Milton Berle, “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door." Schubert is a guitar player in a band; two of his bandmates, Jared Dean and Hunter Blake, came to the graduation. Schubert’s dream is to become a famous musician with his band and have the opportunity to travel the world on tour.

“Griffin Bay is the reason kids like me are up here graduating,” Schubert said.

Superintendent Michael Soltman talked about the "Velveteen Rabbit," using the beloved play toy that wanted to be real as a metaphor to describe the students. In the story, the velveteen rabbit comes to a nursery with many other toys, many of whom pick on him. The rabbit learns many lessons from one toy in particular, the old worn-down horse whose skin had become patchy and matted from years of love.

Soltman described the teachers as the wise, worn horses to the velveteen rabbits of Griffin Bay.

Later in the story, the young boy that owned the velveteen rabbit got scarlet fever. The doctor feared the toy rabbit could re-infect the boy, so the rabbit and other toys were taken out behind the hen coop to be burned the next day. Over night, a fairy comes out and speaks to the velveteen rabbit, who wants nothing more than to be a real rabbit.

The fairy then kisses the rabbit on the nose, and he becomes a real rabbit.

Soltman explained how the family and friends who attended the graduation were the fairies to the rabbits; their support makes nine velveteen rabbits’ dreams real.

“Keep kissing their noses,” Soltman said.

Norton said after the ceremony, “(Griffin Bay) is becoming better at what it does. It’s an opportunity for students in the San Juan School District." She said most of these students needed Griffin Bay to get their diploma. “Three or four students are supporting themselves … one of them is a parent.”

Enrollment in Griffin Bay — which includes Griffin Bay Academy, Griffin Bay Learning Center and the Parent Partnership Program — continues to grow each school year. Now, the school has branched out and even offers online courses for students in grades K-12.

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