A total of 111 young people took their first deep breath as high school graduates Saturday during the 2013 Brookings-Harbor High School commencement ceremony at Elmer Bankus Stadium.
The first breath came in the 90-degree heat after Brookings-Harbor School District Superintendent Brian Hodge declared the group high school graduates. At that point, the graduates released Silly String and threw their mortar-board caps into the air in celebration. This was followed by families and friends coming down to offer congratulations and hugs.
Before the ceremony began, the high school seniors walked from Kalmiopsis Elementary School to the far side of the track where they were greeted by the teachers who were a part of their education experience at Brookings-Harbor schools. Some of the graduates began at local schools in kindergarten, some came later.
This tradition was a personal event between the students and the teachers. Parents were asked to remain in their seats for this.
Graduation ceremonies began on schedule with the seniors walking in pairs in front of the crowd to their seats on the outdoor stage.
Before the graduates and the audience were seated, members of Vietnam Veterans of America presented the flags for the salute, followed by Zach Konkel and members of Sea Breeze choir sang the national anthem.
Student Body President Kayla Webre introduced BHHS Principal Larry Martindale, who presented certificates for Academic Excellence and introduced students receiving honors diplomas.
Hodge introduced the students who participated in the Beyond BHHS program, which is designed to help students transition from high school to early college careers. The program allows students to receive college credit through Southwestern Oregon Community College for approved high school courses.
Speakers then took to the podium, beginning with Salutatorian Lynette Ochoa, followed by valedictorians Taylor Simon and Brandi Rodgers and a brief presentation by Art Dingle, who was awarded Teacher of the Year.
Michael J. Freels, a martial artist who stepped onto the stage wearing his gi, was the keynote speaker.
"We can survive so long without food, and so long without water, but not without breathing," Freels said.
After doing a brief breathing exercise, Freels told the seniors to remember in life to take time to breathe, stating it to be one of the best stress relievers.
Prior to the roll call for diplomas, student Mahalee Evans presented the seniors with signs to hold while the song "Time of Our Lives" was played over the speakers. The signs gave the message, "Have had the time of our lives."