The ceremony began as the BHHS class 0f 2019 walked the track before taking the stage for the flag ceremony. Victoria Muro bore the flag on horseback as the senior choral members sang.

Principal Lisa Dion, Superintendent Sean Gallagher and members of the school the presented this year’s academic awards after welcoming the crowd.

Dion, began the proceedings by pointing out that the Class of 2019 was the largest group to graduate from the high school in several years.

The majority of graduates will be pursuing higher education, with 58 going on to college or university, and five planning to attend a trade school. Military service was chosen by nine, and 20 will immediately enter the workforce. One will be partaking in a religious mission, and one will transition. Twenty-three remain undecided.

Four students met the requirement for valedictorian this year with tied GPA’s and taking several advanced classes. The students are Nathaniel Barnard, Jonathan Kleespies, Mayce McCollum, and Kaylee Strain.

This year’s salutatorian was Aynika Nelson, who maintained the next highest GPA and completed several college-level classes.

“Just as with the salutatorian, a valedictorian is honored each year for the outstanding academic efforts at achieving the highest cumulative grade point average,” said Board Chairman Bruce Raleigh. “In addition, the valedictorian must carry a full course load of six or more classes, have successfully completed five of the nine identified advanced or college level core classes in mathematics, language arts, social studies, and science.”

Nelson then proceeded with her salutatorian speech, talking about her family and their line of strong, empowering women she hoped she and others could use as an example moving forward

“Always advocate for yourself and others. Respect other’s truths and keep your mind on the present, additionally, always remember, you’ll be OK and everything will work out,” Nelson said.

Strain spoke about the paths that brought them to where they are and the community members they met along the way before. Strain finished her speech by giving a special shout-out to history teacher extraordinaire, Kelly Garvin.

Strain concluded, “Lastly, to my best friend Garvin. Thank you for hands down the greatest academic experience of my life.”

Giving the audience a good chuckle, she added, “Thank you for getting me through history. I cried...like... a lot. No, really, I mean... like a lot. Like three times a week.”

Kleespies also gave a touching tribute to his late grandmother, who passed away from Cancer not too long ago. Kleespies gave thanks to God and offered a meaningful verse, Jeremiah 29:11, to help impart wisdom to his peers. He will be attending George Fox University and will study to become a Nurse.

He thanked those people who have supported him, including family and friends, with a special nod to the Fulton family, who have been long-time personal influences and important figures in his life.

McCollum began with a quote from Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

McCollum was quick to point out that with knowledge, also comes responsibility.

She thanked friends and family, teachers, and classmates before concluding her speech.

“Classmates — Finally, we can be thankful for each other,” McCollum said. “The friendships that we have made here will last a lifetime, and in the same way we have supported each other and helped each other succeed throughout these years in Brookings, I hope we will continue to provide support and encouragement for each other in future endeavors with both the power and knowledge we have just received.”

Barnard took a more unusual approach to his Valedictory speech. Instead of offering up sage advice about life to his peers, he though it might be more beneficial to seek out such wisdom in those he felt more qualified to give it.

“Being that I am the same age as you, and have relatively similar amount of life experience, it felt a bit odd to try to come up with some grand wisdom to share with my peers. So I didn’t,” he said.

“ Last week, I went to Seaview retirement home and spoke for a while with many of the residents, yearning to glean off of them some grand suggestions about life for today’s youth. After my discussions with the residence, I pulled away a wealth of information. In general though, I found that one characteristic played a huge role in the advice they gave me to pass on to you: diligence.”

He spoke of what he had gleaned from the elders. The importance of persevering and being self-motivated, for example, and of being kind, hardworking and staying on the right path.

He concluded his speech with a tribute to his very patient, loving parents. His sentiments painted a vivid picture of the wonders/horrors involved with raising a gifted child.

“Lastly, I would like to thank my parents, it has been a long and somewhat rocky journey,” he smiled with a sigh.

The ceremony followed up with the Staff Member of the Year presentation, after which, Mickey Fulton introduced the keynote speaker — Dave Carroll, former Azalea Middle School math teacher and longtime announcer for Bruins athletic events. With many a Star Wars reference, Carroll offered words of encouragement to the Class of 2019 while admiring how much they’d grown over the years.

The graduates also took time to honor classmate Edgar Omar Canales, who died in 2017 after a battle with brain cancer. The Senior Seabreeze Choir sang before roll call, as the seniors collected their diplomas.

The seniors then flipped their tassels in unison to become graduates, throwing glitter and hats in the air as they sprayed each other down with cans of silly string and left the stage to meet up with families.

Many Brookings students graduated with more than a diploma this year, earning certifications and college credits from the school’s dual credit and career training partnership with various Oregon colleges, such as Southwestern Oregon Community College (SOCC), Oregon Institute of Technology, Southern Oregon University.

In recent years, college-level classes have been added for science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEM), as well as Career Technical Education (CTE). Classes on traditional college writing, history, and advanced math classes have also been made available.

You can find a full list of this year’s graduating class listed online at www.brookings.k12.or.us. class="Apple-converted-space">

Curry Pilot Correspondent Jody Davis contributed to this report.

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