Tualatin High School graduates gather for Senior Celebration

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Tualatin Class of 2021 graduates Sawyer Whitt (left) and Mohammed Faks turn their tassels at the June 9 Senior Celebration event. (Josh Kulla/Tualatin Life)

Event marks first in-person meeting for Class of 2021 in 454 days

The Tualatin High School Class of 2021 went through experiences no other graduating class has gone through in the past century. 

454 days after the COVID-19 pandemic sent students into quarantine and many into virtual classes for the remainder of their time in school, the senior class was able to finally gather in person in its entirety one final time. The June 9 Senior Celebration event was a graduation ceremony in all but name, with valedictorian speeches, caps and gowns, teary-eyed parents and all the other trappings of a normal year. And after what this year’s graduates endured to get to this point, it was an event marked by excitement, reflection and the determination to carry on. 

“As we sit here, it’s easy to imagine what our senior year should have looked like. What we could have done and what we would have felt,” said Max Mitchell, one of three students to be both a valedictorian and an International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma candidate. 

But that should not be what this year’s seniors take away from their experience, he added.

“I encourage you all not to dwell on what could have been,” Mitchell said. “If we only take the time to remember everything that we lost, our memory of high school would be tarnished. It’s okay to remember our senior year for what it was, both the bad and the good parts.”  

Mitchell’s optimism set the tone for the event, which took place in the school’s football stadium. Each graduate was allowed to invite two people, typically their parents, and even the mask restrictions everyone has grown used to were relaxed to reflect both the setting and the growing rate of COVID-19 vaccination. 

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The 19 Valedictorians for this year’s class were also recognized, along with 19 IB Diploma candidates.

It’s been a remarkable school year, even if it is because of an unparalleled string of events that have tested the resilience and courage of all Oregonians. 

“Your world has literally been on fire, yet you have found a space for agency, for change making, and this senior class has taught me so much about leadership,” Principal Michael Dellerba said. 

Valedictorian Madelyn Parsons also gave a rousing speech. 

“I know many of us haven’t set foot in our school building in 454 days. Yes, I did calculate it,” Parsons said. “This is our first time all together since March 12, and ironically, I believe we have never been more united. Never has it been so easy to relate to one another. We can easily strike up a conversation about anything COVID related. In a world that is so divided, we have unity and that is a beautiful thing.”