Despite the constant drizzle outside, Fairfax High School graduates' spirits didn't dampen during annual commencement exercises Tuesday at the school's Field House. Over 450 students graduated to the cheers, applause and shouts from parents, siblings, neighbors and friends.
We're "very proud. Excited about his future," said Bob Hayden, who, with the help of his wife Lauren, was taking pictures of their son Anthony. "We're proud of all his friends too."
Following tradition, several valedictorians gave graduation addresses to their fellow classmates. The themes resonating throughout the speeches were courage, perseverance and friendship in times of uncertainty.
"Never try to solve your problems alone, because they will only become more sour," said Paul Schmid, who gave the analogy of turning lemons into lemonade.
Neha Reese Dandawate, fellow valedictorian and recipient of the Outstanding Student Award, agreed.
"Too many times, too many of us forget that choices determine our fate ... I know each and every one of us is ready for the great challenges of life ... we are about the embark on the greatest challenges of our lives," Dandawate said.
Kyung-Wha Kim mentioned how she came from Korea three years ago, and fought through culture shock and the language barrier.
"Living itself is courage. A courageous act is not necessarily big and grand," said Kim, likening courage to performing small, daily activities with conviction. "The good thing about life is we can change it."
In addition to the valedictorians' addresses, principal Linda Thomson and city council member Scott Silverthorne presented several graduates with school awards. Dandawate received the Outstanding Senior Award, while Clarice Chau earned the Student Service Award, Jennifer Janacek received the Faculty Award, and Claire Thompson earned the Fairfax Award.
Although underclassmen looked forward to becoming upperclassmen, the ceremony was still bittersweet. Freshman Caroline Vicars held a bouquet of flowers that she would give to her senior friends after the ceremony, while sophomore Erin Mobley tried to take pictures through the throng.
"I think it's exciting. Very emotional though, because everyone is leaving," Caroline said. "It's happy but sad at the same time."