EVERETT — As the graduating class of 2016 looked back on their time at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, they reflected on the pain and perseverance that defined their experience.
Alisha Purdom and Claire Dobler’s reflection speeches during commencement in Xfinity Arena June 15, touched upon the tragedy of the 2014 shooting at their school.
Purdom alluded to the common touchstones of adolescence, from first loves and heartbreaks, to grade anxieties and homecoming dances, before confronting their greatest shared loss.
“We experienced more loss in a matter of seconds than most people do in their entire lives,” Purdom said. “But I know that, because of that tragedy, we were given the blessing of strength. Because we understand fear, we can comfort the world, and because we know real hurt, we can love people differently.”
Purdom urged her peers to remember that pain, and to remain grounded even as they reach for their dreams.
“You don’t have to change the whole world; just try to change yours,” Purdom said. “Stand up for yourself, but don’t be so strong that you forget how to be weak. Be real with people. Be good friends who love deeply. Remember that diamonds form under pressure, and don’t forget where you came from.”
Dobler compared the students’ lives to books that parents and other adult mentors begin writing in, but that the students gradually take more control over writing themselves.
“The pen was also passed among our friends, who added countless chapters of humor, kindness and memories to cherish in our stories,” Dobler said. “Now, the pen is in our hands. It is our turn to decide what to do with it. Do you want to continue to let someone stand over your shoulder and tell you what to write? Or do you take that pen and create your own story?”
Dobler acknowledged that she and her peers lack one freedom that actual authors take for granted, since they can’t always control what happens to them.
“No one would choose to write heartache, sickness and sadness into their own lives, but these sometimes enter our world,” Dobler said. “Our earliest chapters prepared us for the unexpected twists in future pages, allowing us to successfully continue creating the story.”
The three class valedictorians offered relatively utilitarian advice. Khanh Stitsel warned against procrastination, recommended adopting efficient time management and cited the value of learning to work well within teams. Collin Paulk encouraged peers to take part in life’s opportunities and interact with others, and Amanda Kalab exhorted them to cherish loved ones.
M-P senior class president Sam Watson credited his years of football with helping him grow into an adult, thanks in large part to the role models he met.
“I grew up in the only neighborhood around M-P that had an immediate gate onto the campus, so I walked to school to watch football games every Friday night, starting when I was five years old,” Watson said. “It is here where I have grown into a young man, and where I met a one-of-a-kind girl, who will hopefully be around forever. Marysville-Pilchuck has given me everything a young man could ever want.”