By Heather Spaulding
The sky was overcast on June 12, it was even threatening to rain. The crowd attending Friday Harbor High’s 2021 graduation ceremony did not appear to notice nor let the weather dampen the celebration.
Due to COVID restrictions, only a limited number of family members were invited to attend the event, however, the cheers were loud and tears flowed easily.
Student president Bristol Halvorson’s voice cracked with emotion as she welcomed the crowd and introduced her 58 classmates. She also made sure to note that for co-valedictorian Emma Mughal it was a double celebration — not only was she graduating, but it was her birthday as well.
“We are uniquely inclusive and supportive of each other,” Mughal said at the beginning of her speech. The class, she continued, is full of incredible artists, actors, athletes, academics and activists. “Our achievements have been made better through each other’s encouragement.”
Mughal continued to thank the community for the love, support and encouragement given to the class over the years.
“I hope I have the kind of community in my future that Friday Harbor has been,” she said.
Salutatorian Ayla Ridwan spoke to the appropriateness of the class motto, explaining that the class has proven time and time again through elementary school hijinks to high school achievements that when this class sets goals, the graduates not only meet them but often surpass them.
“I hope we take our class motto with us wherever we go,” she said.
Co-Valedictorian Tyler Fleming-Bleed used the recent National Aeronautics and Space Administration mission to Mars to illustrate the importance of perseverance — the name of the rover currently being used to study the planet — and ingenuity — the name of the first helicopter to take flight on a different planet.
“Over the last four years, we have had to problem solve and adapt. Especially over the last year and a half,” Fleming-Bleed said. “Our class had to persevere and use our ingenuity. Our class preserved through truly chaotic times. … We will need to use our ingenuity and our perseverance to overcome the challenges that await.”
San Juan Island School District Superintendent Fred Woods kicked off the scholarship awards portion of the event by thanking the community for supporting education.
“This community is truly incredible, and its generosity continues to amaze me,” Woods said.
Despite the pandemic, local businesses and nonprofits distributed thousands of dollars to assist the class in their future academic adventures. Businesses included Valmark (Kings Market and Market Place); Windermere; Coldwell Banker; Crystal Seas; San Juan Property Management; Luxel; Banner Bank; the Westcott Oyster Farm; and many others. Nonprofits included Soroptimists International of Friday Harbor; San Juan Preservation Trust; the San Juan Community Foundation; Island Artisan Scholarship Fund; and more.
The theme returned yet again to the class motto. Before Eric Peter awarded the San Juan County Sheriff’s Guild scholarship to Mateo Blackmon.
“The sky has no limits, and neither should you,” Peter said. “The only limits you have are the limits you put on yourself.”