As they graduated, Hermiston High School’s class of 2018 celebrated everything that brought them to that point — as well as the changes ahead.
“I thank you for the love, the happiness and the tears, but most of all, our history,” said valedictorian and class speaker Dylan Westfall. “Let’s go see what’s out there.”
The largest class to graduate from Hermiston in the history of the school, 342 seniors walked across the stage at the Toyota Center in Kennewick. The class boasted 10 valedictorians and several successes in academic, athletic and musical endeavors, noted Principal Tom Spoo.
“The class of 2018 qualifies as one of the finest in Hermiston High School history,” Spoo said.
Students chose to remember not just the high points, but the challenges that had shaped them. Westfall noted several dates in the last few years that had been milestones for their class.
He recalled Nov. 25, 2017, the day Hermiston High School won the OSAA 5A football championship. He recalled one of the toughest days, when a classmate passed away.
“Moments like those test us as a family,” he said. “That day, our family got a little closer.”
The audience heard from Salma Anguiano, a student speaker who encouraged her classmates to be patient if they still hadn’t figured out their path in life.
“Finding your passion will happen at an unexpected moment,” she said. “My advice is to seize that moment when it comes.”
Judge Dan Hill, the distinguished alumnus, gave students several pointers.
“Focus on lifelong learning, formal or informal,” he said.
He urged the graduates to engage with the world, put down their cell phones and take their futures seriously.
“If you think for some reason you don’t have the right stuff, I’m here to tell you that you do,” he said. “I challenge you to prepare for every opportunity.”
After each student had received their diploma, valedictorian Reed Middleton said a few words. She asked her classmates not to back down from the challenges that might come their way.
“We may even have to pump our own gas — the atrocity!” she said to laughs from the crowd.
“Never forget to turn around and thank the people who got you there,” she said.
Then, she led her classmates in the turning of the tassel.
As graduates tossed their caps and reunited with their families, many reflected on the last few years.
Ja’Qwaya Gooden said the reality hadn’t quite hit her yet.
“I’m really happy I made it,” she said. “I thank everyone who got me here.”
Though parents and families faced heavy traffic while traveling from Hermiston to Kennewick, many said they were happy with the new venue.
“It was good to have it here, so many families could come,” said Betty Gutierrez, there to watch her grandson Joey graduate. “Everybody wants to be here to see this happen.”
School board member Bonnie Luisi said counters at the door counted about 4,400 attendees at the event.