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BELLINGHAM - On a breezy, cool Friday evening, 115 Bellingham High School Blackhawks completed 13 years of formal schooling and they did it with class and style.
"What beautiful weather," outgoing School Superintendent David N. Fischer said at Friday's 73rd annual commencement exercises to honor the Class of 2011 graduating seniors. Yesterday's postcard-perfect weather saw the ceremony held outdoors for the first time in three years.
Dressed in robes with the traditional school colors of black and white, the graduates marched to their seats as parents jockeyed for position to snap cameras. The Bellingham High School Band, led by Band Musical Director Marie S. Forte, played a spotless rendition of â€śPomp and Circumstance.â€ť
"Each of us has a story to tell about how we arrived at this point in our lives and every story is different," said Fischer, who is leaving the school district in June. "After (the) ceremony I urge you to express your gratitude to your family and those who have inspired and supported you over the years."
"The future we predict isn't inevitable. You can influence and create your own destiny," he said. "You are facing an unpredictable work environment, but you must take control and use change to your advantage. Finally, I offer you this advice: at the end of the day, ask yourself what you have done for yourself, your family and your community. Keep family first in your life. And fight for what you believe in."
In his speech, Class of 2011 Valedictorian Surya Manickam urged his fellow graduates to step away from their busy lives and priorities and take a moment to reflect on their lives.
"On this momentous day, Iâ€™m not asking you to reflect on your entire life, but just these last four years," he said. "Reflect, experience once again those great times during these years and remember that feeling. Even for all of you parents, relatives and friends out there, take a second to think. Forget about those priorities and demanding lifestyle constantly on the fast-forward button. Remember, reflect and experience those good times again, experience them today, donâ€™t delay. Yeah, you like that rhyme, the next Jay-Z. When reflecting youâ€™ll realize so much. My mind is filled with great memories and Iâ€™m sure your mind is too."
"Reflecting every once in awhile can help you make connections between different parts of your life and help create yourself. It will only enhance the future," he added.
Manickam said the Class of 2011 is prepared to face the future with the skills needed to succeed.
"I believe this school has done a lot to prepare us for this world and has exposed us to many vital things, so though itâ€™s a challenge I think we can do it," he said. "As simply teenagers in this society weâ€™ve had to endure and deal with so much; weâ€™re so talented and we donâ€™t even know it. With the skills weâ€™ve attained through our teachers and the thousands of rows of doors that open up to us, Iâ€™m confident we have nothing to worry about, of course, considering our priorities.
"If there's one thing I want you to bear in mind after today itâ€™s to slow down life so that you can remember, reflect and experience since that can only enhance your future," he added. "Not only today to relive high school, but throughout your entire life. Hopefully through this speech you learned a little bit, had a laugh, but most importantly hopefully you felt something. Hopefully you decide to take a step back and watch your life slowly illuminate in front of you. Because if you do that, youâ€™ll begin to realize that your life is not something to take for granted, but is a gift."
In her speech to her fellow graduates, Class of 2010 Salutatorian Quynh Nhu Nguyen Daniels said, "Look back at the past to thank the people who have influenced and encouraged you these past few years. Your friends, who have always been there for you, and despite the distance, you're still going to Skype, Facebook, call and text each other every day. Thank you, my friends, for going to the movies and hanging out with me. Thanks for giving me a social life. I love you guys."
She also thanked the school faculty for "cheering us on."
"Without your teaching and motivation, graduating, learning and maturing as a person would have been much, much more of an incredibly difficult process," she said.
Daniels urged her fellow classmates to look forward to the future.
"Whether its college, the military, or going immediately into the work force, please always look forward and never give up," she said. "You've survived all these years. You've survived high school. You are now basically invincible! But know that you have just accomplished something incredible. I would like to salute all of you for making it thus far, for never giving up, for making a promise to graduate and actually delivering on that promise, for keeping up with your grades, for not being absent too much, for graduating with me."