Friday Harbor celebrates its 2020 high school graduates

Friday Harbor celebrates its 2020 high school graduates

Graduation ceremonies were not traditional this year, but a pesky pandemic didn’t halt the festivities altogether. Seventy-five Friday Harbor High School students graduated during a virtual ceremony and car parade on Saturday, June 6, and 18 Spring Street International School walked during its June 12 graduation.

“It did feel different from the way I had always imagined graduation to feel, but I was grateful for the work that was put into our experience,” Friday Harbor High School Valedictorian Rachel Snow said. “Everyone was still able to see scholarships, speeches a goodbye and good luck message from teachers and staff as well as witness each other receive their diplomas.”

Friday Harbor High School Principal, and soon to be superintendent, Fred Woods gave kudos to school staff and parents for going the extra mile in order to honor the students.

“It was the parents who were active in putting up the banners of the seniors throughout the town, and who organized the parade,” Woods said. Giving each senior their diploma before the car parade was Woods’ favorite part of the ceremony, he said.

Friday Harbor High graduate Arlo Harold, student speaker chosen by the graduates to introduced the class for the virtual ceremony, reflected on how the class was born during the 9/11 terror attack and is now transitioning into adulthood during a pandemic. The situations have made the class stronger and learn to adapt, he said.

“I would not have wanted to go through these 13 years with any other group,” Harold said. “This class is something special.”

Angela Light witnessed both schools’ graduations — her daughters, Eden and Lili Light, graduated from Spring Street and Friday Harbor respectively. Angela Light said she loved Woods’ personal gesture to the seniors, saying it gave a nice touch to the festivities and noted that Spring Streets ceremony was also beautiful.

Spring Street held its graduation outside with everyone staying socially distant. People could watch from their car, Eden Light noted. The event was live-streamed as Head of School Louis Prussack presented the students with scholarships and diplomas.

Afterward, the small group of graduates headed to Turn Island for an outside cookout with smores.

“The whole day was just really really lovely,” Eden Light said.

Angela Light noted both schools did an excellent job not just with the graduations, but with online classes, adding that the staff of both schools managed to adapt while under tremendous pressure.

“As a momma with kids going to two different schools I am just so impressed with our local educators,” she said.

Friday Harbor High School superintendent Kari McVeigh acknowledged that navigating a pandemic made for a different sort of senior year.

“Of course our graduating seniors were disappointed to lose all of the familiar and important rites of passage from proms to in-person graduation with their friends,” McVeigh said. “Still, having said that, they were absolute troupers.”

Scholarships were down slightly, McVeigh said. Some businesses and nonprofits were unable to sponsor scholarships due to the stay-home stay healthy orders this year. But she noted was still impressed with the community’s altruism, pandemic aside.

“This community shows their appreciation of our graduates by incredible generosity in overall scholarships,” McVeigh said. “That was equally true this year.”

Woods also commended the community’s hospitality in regard to scholarships.

“It was a concern that they would be down,” Woods said. “If they were, it wasn’t by a whole lot, we have such a giving community.”

Rachel Snow’s mother Kelly added, “From a parent’s perspective, I think the virtual graduation went very well.” Kelly Snow added that the banners; parking lot wall painting; virtual graduation; and the parade went better than she had expected.

“Most everyone felt happy that we found alternatives to celebrate these kids. The video was fast-paced and fun to watch,” Kelly Snow said, adding that it included many of the island traditions including the class history and photomontage. To watch the video or view photos, visit https://www.sjisd.wednet.edu/fhhs.

The Spring Street commencement can be viewed at https://www.springstreet.org/live.html.

“Of course I was disappointed that our class could not have enjoyed every aspect of graduation and the end of our senior year, particularly the last activities that we would be able to take part in together as a way to say goodbye after so many years of growing up with each other,” Rachel Snow said. “However this process demonstrated to me what an amazing community and school we have, that works so hard to make us feel acknowledged.”

The parade felt like a true celebration between the town and the students, according to Kelly Snow.

“We were amazed at how the community came out to cheer them on,” she said. “If there’s one thing Friday Harbor can do, it’s put on a parade!”

Filming of the Friday Harbor graduation occurred toward the end of May, Woods said. The school hired a production company and began scheduling the seniors.

“This whole process demonstrated to me what an amazing community and school we have, that works so hard to make us feel acknowledged,” Rachel Snow said. “The car parade through town felt like an amazing way to see the faces of the community, friends and family who had supported us along this journey.”

The number of available scholarships were down slightly this year, McVeigh said. Some businesses and nonprofits were unable to sponsor scholarships due to the pandemic. But she noted was still impressed with the community’s altruism.

“This community shows their appreciation of our graduates by incredible generosity in overall scholarships,” McVeigh said. “That was equally true this year.”

Woods also commended the community’s hospitality in regard to scholarships.

“It was a concern that they would be down,” Woods said. “If they were, it wasn’t by a whole lot, we have such a giving community.”