So, here we are: Graduation 2021. We wanted to know: What’s on the minds of Wenatchee Valley seniors as they graduate from high school? We asked Wenatchee and Eastmont district officials for student speeches to be given at graduation. (Eastmont High School had many student speakers, WestSide High School had none and Wenatchee High School had two.) We’re pleased to present these words that are full of wisdom, humor, energy and joy. Read their speeches on Pages C1, C2 and C3.
Adversity and gratitude
One of the most significant lessons I have learned throughout my high school career is that approaching adversity with an attitude of gratitude can influence our wellbeing and success. A notable quote reads, “When life throws stones at you, collect them and build an empire.”
This past year we have experienced a rockslide of stones thrown at us, and as we move forward, life will consistently present itself with new challenges, which is why it is so important to know how best to respond to them. After struggling with stress and anxiety, I have found that practicing gratitude is one of the few methods that has allowed me to combat these otherwise debilitating issues — and it can help you too. You see, we do not get to decide which stones life throws at us or when, only what we will choose to do with them. After speaking with students and staff alike, I have noticed that current circumstances have made many people bitter. Gratitude empowers us to look beyond the bitterness and pain in that stone, and see its potential and purpose as a part of the empire we are each striving to build. Although it will take great effort to appreciate your challenges, don’t miss out on the learning opportunities they provide. As you allow that stone to build you from the bottom up into the vision you see of your future self, you will not only experience greater success in your life, but you will also experience greater joy. Even though I was a moody stress-ball for most of highschool, I am still so grateful for every one of my challenges, because they have ultimately made me into the person I am today.
To my teachers, family, and friends, I am so grateful to you for supporting me on this journey of mine. To all of you — I encourage you to make practicing gratitude a part of your daily life — to think about it, write about it, and share it. With those things in mind, take the adversity life throws at you and build yourself an empire.
Parents: Brian and Melinda Anantatmula
On the importance of grace
One of the most important things I have learned since starting at Eastmont High School is to always carry and treat myself with grace. I moved to East Wenatchee right before my sophomore year from a town of only 800, moving took me completely out of my comfort zone but, at the same time, it was exciting because of all the new opportunities I had.
So, I joined eight different clubs, six of which were brand new to me. Of course, with any new activity comes new challenges and learning curves. A lot of those are what have taught me to have grace. You have to have grace when you are balancing so many things along with keeping your grades up.
I would have to say my biggest teacher of grace would be tennis. Tennis has taught me how to stay positive and be kind to myself when faced with tough situations like many of the matches I played. Playing on the varsity team this year really pushed me to keep my grace when I was facing frustration, to never accept defeat, and always keep my spirits up.
Coming into Eastmont I wasn’t sure I would be able to thrive in such a large school but now that I am leaving I can proudly hold my head high knowing that I gave myself grace and tried my very best. That is why I stand here today. Thank you.
Parents: Scott and Amie Eaton
Well-being and test scores
If I had to describe Eastmont School District in one word, it would be compassionate. When I was younger, I was incredibly sensitive and put an unnecessary amount of academic pressure on myself. I remember the day I cried in second grade because my name wasn’t called to go to recess for Fun Friday. I didn’t care about being with friends, but rather felt like my teacher would be disappointed in me for forgetting to bring my homework to school. My teacher reassured me everything was okay and that she wasn’t upset. Fast forward a few years, and the teachers at Eastmont High School are just as considerate.
During my junior year, Mr. Schmauder repeatedly told our AP U.S. History class, “I legitimately don’t care if you fail the AP exam.” Obviously he was still rooting for our success, but Mr. Schmauder, and other teachers, care more about their students’ well-being than a number on a standardized test or a cumulative GPA. Students are worth more than their academics, and Eastmont has always represented that. I will forever be appreciative of the kindness Eastmont staff members have shown me and my peers, and for inspiring me to embody the compassion Eastmont School District radiates every day.
Parents: Hannah and Ryan Ellington
Growth and exploration
High school is a period for personal growth and exploration, as well as a time for learning. My experience at Eastmont, though short, has left me well-equipped to enter the real world because it has presented me with more than just textbook information, but also valuable character traits like independence. If any of you have taken an algebra class from Mr. Schmitten, you’ll know what I mean when I say that he did an excellent job teaching us independence. While the tactic of answering our questions with questions may have been slightly frustrating at the time, it was more helpful in the end, because it helped me better understand concepts and also taught me the critical life skill of independence, so I thank you sincerely to all of the teachers who helped us to learn on our own. I truly feel ready to enter the next chapter of my life, and Eastmont has played a pivotal role in preparing me to do so.
Parents: Jessica Hanson and Ty Harden
Do you remember when we were in kindergarten and we tried so hard to spell the word dog? Or how about being eleven years old and trying to solve the problem 2x-4=3x+6? Now here we stand, knowing much more than the spelling of dog or the fact that x equals negative ten. We are accomplished scholars, and none of us would have made it here without grit. Grit is defined as a trait based on an individual’s perseverance and effort combined with the passion for a long-term goal. Grit is in the moments where we face near defeat. It is in the classroom of that math class when you have no clue what the exam is talking about. It is in the district championship where you can end your season or fight to be champions. Grit is found in all of us. It is in the effort we put in to complete those homework assignments against our will. It is in the perseverance of finals week. It is in all of the steps we have taken at Eastmont to be where we are today. Today, we can go out into the world knowing that our perseverance and effort have led to the accomplishment of graduation. Today, we celebrate grit and the grit found in all of us. Thank you.
Parents: David and Stephanie Hersh
Word of the year: Perseverance
When I think of Eastmont I think of perseverance. As the class of 2021 we have faced many obstacles; including a pandemic, our academic terms changing to trimesters, busy schedules; with sports, work, and homework, and maybe some personal challenges as well. Through it all we continued to persevere by showing up and making the best of each situation. Similarly, in the next part of our lives we will encounter obstacles such as the ones we have faced here. Obstacles that may make us uncomfortable, stressed and or nervous for the unforeseeable outcome. It is up to us to determine whether we shall take a quicker and maybe less painful route through those obstacles; or rather face those challenges head on. In the end, what matters most is not everything that you accomplish but the effort that you put into your striving for your dreams and the lessons that come from your hard work. A quote on Mr. Millards wall that has inspired me this year states, “You can battle your hardest but still not amount to the greatest, as long as you finish fighting” — unknown.
As we move on to the next chapter of our lives I hope that all of you in the class of 2021 will continue to persevere, and work towards reaching your goals no matter what hardships come your way
Parents: Keith and Deborah Kelly
Dedication and resilience
There are many traits that Eastmont could be known for: our school spirit, our crowded parking lot, or even our spunky principal. These all undoubtedly make Eastmont unique, but I think the most noteworthy trait about Eastmont is our dedication and resilience.
It’s safe to say that the past year has flipped our world upside down. One thing I admire about Eastmont throughout all these changes was the dedication that all had to making the best out of the unusual and unprecedented circumstances we faced.
I remember in particular a practice during my cross country season of this year. Instead of being in the fall like normal, we started our season in February. At this practice, I looked up and saw my teammates, running with masks on in the cold weather and pouring rain and my coaches there supporting us. This really touched me and made me appreciate the dedication and resilience of Eastmont.
I want to thank all of you, staff, parents, peers, classmates, friends, and my family for supporting me throughout my journey. I want to give a special thanks to the staff of Eastmont as they had to adjust and readjust their teaching styles and formats over the last year. I am grateful for each of your wonderful examples. I know that as we all continue to move forward in our lives that we can keep showing that dedication and resilience that I admire so much about Eastmont.
Parents: Thomas and Elisabeth Merrill
Hi, my name is Joe Murphy, and I’m honored to be speaking today with my fellow classmates on behalf of the class of 2021. I’ve been thinking a lot about my time at Eastmont and all I’ve learned, and one trait that comes to mind is tenacity. When I think of tenacity, I think of putting in work and sacrificing to achieve a goal even, or especially, when things are not going well. I think most of this growth happened during the last two years when we were all stuck inside in virtual classes which was something we never even considered as a possibility.
Although our last two years weren’t what we thought they were going to be, we still made the best of them and learned some important things along the way. That’s tenacity to me. Often in life, things don’t go the way we expect or the way we planned. The true sign of success is when we can push through those hard times, make the best of them, and continue to pursue our goals. As the great Winston Churchill once said, “If you’re going through hell . . . . keep going.” I wish all of my classmates the best in your next steps, and when tough times come, just keep going. Keep pushing. Thank you.
Parents: Jack and Michelle Murphy
Make the best of it
Being flexible with our daily schedules is something we have all had to deal with this school year. Life is unpredictable, and the plans you have crumble. You might find yourself in a situation where you go out and help your sister clean her car, and she ends up sucking your mask up with the vacuum tube. You, of course, have to go to school tomorrow, so you try and find a replacement for it, but the only options at the store are a cheetah print face mask, which you hate the look of, and a pink face mask with a cheesy phrase on it. You let your sisters choose, and they choose the pink one. The next day you drop it on the way to school without realizing it. When you get to school, you are relieved that Eastmont provides masks for people who don’t have any. Instead of getting frustrated, you brush it off and laugh because that’s how life is; unforeseeable. I am not saying that this happened to me, but I am wearing a pink face mask with a cheesy phrase. So next time an inconvenience changes your schedule, take a deep breath and try to make the best of it.
Parents: Francisco Pena-Barragan and Silvia Pena-Navarrete
A lot to be proud of
There are many traits that flourish here at Eastmont High School, but the one that always comes to mind for me is pride. Pride has many meanings, but the pride I am speaking of today is the pride of an athlete after a successful competition, the satisfaction of students after performing well on a test, and the members of the Redzone cheering their hearts out from the audience. When I think of pride this year, I think of the attendance at sports events. When what should have been fall sports finally began in February, spectators were not allowed at competitions at all. However, as soon as restrictions were loosened, every single ticket was quickly swept up by parents and students who wanted to see their family and friends compete in the sports they love. When they couldn’t get tickets officially, they would volunteer to help in any way they could. These volunteers and audience members displayed pride in Eastmont’s athletes and sports programs, and in turn the athletes felt even more pride in themselves. This sense of pride is also here tonight. Anywhere you look in this stadium, you will see scores of parents, grandparents, siblings, and Eastmont staff, all with that look of pride as they watch those they love graduate. They have plenty of reasons to be proud.
Between remote learning, socially distanced sports, and transitioning back to in-person schooling, the Eastmont Class of 2021 has been put through one of the most uncertain school years anyone here can probably remember. Tonight is certainly a time that the Eastmont Community can feel a little pride.
Parents: Ronald and Beth Marotta
Someone to rely on
It is a privilege to stand up here and be recognized as valedictorian. If we’re being honest I still don’t even know how to spell valedictorian. Anyway… over the past four years of being a high school student, I was taught reliance. At certain times throughout high school, I was very passionate about succeeding and tried to do so by relying on myself alone, which led to stress, as some of my teachers and fellows students may know. Through this process I learned how to rely on my family, friends, mentors, and God. Being able to confide in people who were always willing to help, support, and cheer me on is something for which I will forever be grateful. This year especially has opened my eyes to the one person who will always be there for me, Jesus! Relying on God has given me an identity that is not defined by my report card or achievements, and it has truly been liberating. Knowing that I will always have someone to rely on is the best lesson that I learned throughout high school. I hope that as we all continue forward in life that we remember that we’re not alone and that we always have someone to rely on. I also hope that one day I’ll finally be able to spell valedictorian. Thanks.
Parents: Libby and Carl Patterson
Old guiding the new
As we went through high school, we all created new experiences.
Freshman year, I felt the new pressure of grade counting for my final transcript.
Sophomore year, I felt the new environment of the high school.
Junior year, I experienced the new environment at Wenatchee Valley College.
And senior year, I adapted to the new way of learning online.
As we graduate today, almost all of these new experiences have already become old experiences.
However, we will all face new challenges and our old challenges will serve as a reference to overcome adversity.
We will all create new relationships and new experiences as we let our old ones guide us.
As we continue our lives after high school, we will all reach new heights just as our principal Lance Noell will reach a new height someday.
I want to give a “thank you” to Eastmont High School and a special “thank you” to Lance Noell for making Eastmont a special place.
Parents: Donald and Lisa Popoff
Gage Santa Cruz
Take the world by storm
Hello everyone, I stand before you today as myself, a person, no more than that. I may hold the title of valedictorian, but to me the title is nothing more than that, a title. The path here has been one of determination, grit, and work. But to me, the most important component to life over the years has been humanity. Accepting this fact may seem hard at times, we get so caught in others’ lives that we often become jealous. We all present ourselves to the masses with what we want to be,the best version of ourselves. And despite knowing this, we look to others and think, “Wow, I want a life like that.” But know this, every person has a backstory, every person has flaws, EVERY person is just a person. So go out there, make connections, take the world by storm. We’re all just people, we all have the same value, and that value is larger than you could possibly ever imagine. No one deserves to be forgotten, everyone deserves nothing less than the best, and this most certainly includes you.
Parents: Darby Cutler and Blake Hanson
Proud of us
It’s a word I’m sure you’ve all heard a lot at Eastmont, and, I’d say my time here has definitely helped me become a kinder person. To that end, I would like to change pace a little, and just say…I’m proud of all of you. If you’ll be walking across this stage tonight, I’m proud of you. Whether you woke up each morning ready to seize the day, or whether you struggled to get out of bed some days, I’m proud of you. Being able to say you walked across this stage at graduation is certainly no small feat. I may not know all of the individual challenges each of you had to face to get here, but nonetheless, I truly am proud of you.
I leave you with a quote, both in the original Japanese and with my mildly embellished translation.￼
“Sudachiyuku kyo no wakare. Iza saraba sensei, to saraba tomo yo. Utsukush￼ ￼asu no hi no tame.”
“Today is the day that we all leave the nest. And so, I’ll say farewell to all my teachers and to all my friends. Let us make each tomorrow brighter than the one before.”
Peace out, Eastmont!
Parents: Donald and Laura Shennum
Learn to forgive
First of all, I would like to thank my teachers, my family, and my friends. Without all of your help, I would never have been able to make it this far. In all my years of schooling, my greatest lesson was to be forgiving. Whether you are disappointed in yourself following a colossal mistake, or angry at your friends for betraying your trust, you need to learn to forgive. This doesn’t necessarily mean there will be no consequences for the offending events, but you should always strive to be fair and non-emotional when you deal with upsetting occasions. Now, this isn’t always simple, but I don’t think there’s any other healthy way to deal with hurt than to endeavor to forgive. That lesson helped me quite a lot, especially in close-knit communities like Drama Club. Now that high school is over for me, I wouldn’t have lived it any other way. So, if you can’t think of a way to resolve a dispute, try forgiving first. Thank you for your time.
Parents: Erick and Lisa Sydenstricker
We did it!
‘We made it, guys. Thirteen years of hard work all going toward this moment. And with the year we had, I didn’t know if this day would ever come. All I know for sure, is that I couldn’t have asked for a better class to walk alongside. From beating Wenatchee in football every year since we were freshman to enjoying amazing shows put on like Little Women and Cinderella. But most of all I just can’t believe it’s time to move our tassels and close our chapter on EHS.
Being a part of a school like Eastmont is rare. You know a solid percentage of the students you pass in the hallway, and can walk up to your principal and be made fun of and it’s just your average Monday. But being a Wildcat is more than that. At Eastmont, friends become family. Principals get their heads shaved for charity, and teachers dance at the doors to welcome us back every time we have a first day this year.
Over the last four years, we’ve had the opportunity to grow and fail and get back up. We’ve had the chance to try new things and create a persona for ourselves. We have the chance to challenge ourselves and push and learn and understand what’s really important in life.
And as we turn the page on our Eastmont chapter, here are some things I learned and I hope you will all remember them, too.
Kindness counts: We’re all about that kindness thing here at Eastmont, and if I know one thing it’s that I don’t know everything, especially what’s going on in someone’s life, so as my mom has told me since the time I was little, always be the nice one.
Fun is a part of life, in every aspect of school, there was something I could look forward to that made what was happening more fun. Whether it was spirit week or Mr. Noell came up in the hallway and tagged me as “Mean Makenna”, I was reminded that while my education is incredibly important, I could still enjoy my time while I was learning and my life.
No matter what I can always stand back up. My time at EHS was not free of failure, as I’m sure yours wasn’t either. But my screw-ups and mistakes never defined me, they were always used as something for me to grow from. Mr. Gallaher always reminds us that it’s better to be reminded of something than to be taught something new. And I know that no matter what happens as we all go forth from this moment, that failure will not define us, it will serve as simply an opportunity to get back up and try again.
And now, I’d like to speak specifically to our wonderful staff. I can’t say this enough, but thank you. Thank you for always and consistently having each and everyone of your students backs. Thank you for pushing us to be better learners. Thank you for leading by example. Thank you for continuing to work hard even in the face of COVID, hybrid-learning, 100 minute classes, and so many changes this year. We couldn’t have made it through our years, especially this one without your support, encouragement, and guidance. I don’t think that our staff could ever be matched or replicated and you have no idea what an honor it has been to get to learn from all of you, so thank you.
And so my fellow seniors/almost graduates, we did it. In the face of a global pandemic, online learning, masks, social distancing, and our own personal battles, we made it to this moment. A moment that we will look back on and say wow, these, these were the good old days everyone once talked about. So thank you. Thank you for working hard and going on this journey. Thank you for being Eastmont High School’s class of 2021.
And my four year old self would be furious with me if I missed this opportunity, so once a wildcat, always a wildcat. Congratulations Seniors, WE DID IT!
Parents: Shawn and Melissa Schwab
Failures will happen but so will success
“Jump left, left, left, for the Wildcats, now jump right, right, right for the Wildcats” might have been the most stressful part of high school. Who’s going to fall? When are we going to fall? Are my white shoes going to survive this cheer? Well this cheer is kind of like high school, there is so much uncertainty through it all but all you can do is: do your best, hold on to people for support, and enjoy it all.
As we navigated our way through all the lefts and rights of high school, the support from all the different relationships in our lives were always there to help guide us along the way. The classroom friendships that grew over the semester, these friendships of asking for help on an assignment — that over time turned into talking all period about all the fun weekend plans. Our friendships with our closest friends who we could count on to bring a smile to our face and cheer us up when we needed it the most. Our best friends from kindergarten who have been there through it all; the countless memories of laughing ‘til our stomachs hurt and crying ‘til there were no more tears to cry. Our parents who have shown us endless love and support, our biggest cheerleaders who not only support us in success, but support us in our failures as well. The ones who modeled that success not only relates to a career, but it also relates to the relationships in life. All of us have these important relationships in our lives who have helped us get to this point in life. Along the way you could say there were some pretty big bumps in the road, yet here we are ready to go into the world. Now, we are ready to enter the world because of the important relationships we created with others, but also the relationships we formed with ourselves.
Our class faced lots of adversity and a whole lot of uncertainty but through this time we still came together in unity. Reflecting back on everything we have been taught, the greatest thing we learned was not from a book, but it was from each other. We taught one another the importance of respect, honesty, humility, patience, selflessness, forgiveness, commitment, and kindness. All of these essentials we learned we can take into the world to build a brighter future for ourselves and generations to come, while we navigate the lefts and rights of our paths.
As we begin down this new path remember failures will happen but so will success.
This next chapter is all about growth, grow your knowledge but also grow your character. In order to grow you have to fail, but when you do, learn something new and enjoy every moment. So every moment we are given, take every opportunity to inspire someone around you, take every opportunity to thank someone important to you, take every opportunity to leave someone better than you found them. When things don’t go right don’t be afraid to jump left. So for the last time as an EHS student stand and jump left, left, left for the Wildcats, now jump right, right, right for the Wildcats.
Parents: Bob and Michelle Gallaher