As they walked out the door of Hermiston High School for the last time, there were mixed emotions from the Class of 2021.

Some were grinning as they left the graduation ceremony at the high school on Thursday, June 3. Others got a bit teary-eyed as they hugged friends and family. While many said they were glad to be leaving behind a difficult school year, most could find good memories of high school, too.

Angel Barron said his favorite memory was winning the state football championship his freshman year.

“It was really cold, but otherwise really cool,” he said.

The Bulldogs took home the Oregon 5A title in November 2017, going out on top as they headed to the Mid-Columbia Conference to compete against Washington schools.

Now, Barron heads to Blue Mountain Community College to study criminal justice.

William Kern’s best memory also was from his first year of high school, when he and the rest of the cast took their bows at the end of the musical “Seussical.”

Theater and choir were highlights for him the rest of his high school career, and after playing Horton he went on to play other lead roles, including the Scarecrow in “The Wizard of Oz.”

Now, he plans to start out at BMCC before eventually transferring to a four-year university to finish up a bachelor’s degree in business.

“I’ll save some money at home,” he said.

Gilberto Avila said the thing he will miss most about high school is the freedom from adult responsibilities that he knows are waiting for him on the other side. He said he plans to go to a four year university but he’s not sure where yet.

Graduation this year kicked off with a gathering of all the seniors in the high school gym, where they listened to speeches while their parents and other family members waited outside. Afterward, district administrators brought each student’s six designated guests into the building to watch them walk across the stage in the commons area to receive their diploma. Graduates then proceeded out the front doors of the high school for the last time, greeted by a photographer, “swag bag” and the cheers of friends and family.

The livestream online had technical difficulties and did not include audio, but students seated inside were able to hear from Inle Gonzalez, Adamaryz Lopez Navarrete, Eleanor Ernst, Paige Palzinski and Ella Hagel.

“It feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders,” Gonzalez said after she exited the building. “This is the next step to making my parents proud.”

She said her favorite memory from high school was playing in the band at Hermiston’s state football championship game. Now she is headed to Portland State University, where she plans to double major in social work and community development with a minor in Chicano/Latino studies.

Lopez Navarrete said she is planning to major in computer science at University of Oregon.

“I’m excited and ready to take on the world,” she said of graduating.

As Hagel left the building, she said felt accomplished, and happy to have finished a hard final year of school. She plans to go to University of Oregon, but is not sure of her major yet. She said she will miss the camaraderie with her friends from high school the most.

Cristina Cuevas, who served as the high school counselor to the Class of 2021, said there were 369 students in the class who walked at graduation. A few more still are finishing up, however, with another seven who have since qualified for their diploma or will within days.

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