SPECIAL BALLOONS FOR A SPECIAL PARADE – Parades need balloons. This one says it all:  The class of 2021 of La Conner High School graduating seniors paraded from the school grounds on their way to First Street Thursday, June 10.  	– Photo by Ken Stern
SPECIAL BALLOONS FOR A SPECIAL PARADE – Parades need balloons. This one says it all: The class of 2021 of La Conner High School graduating seniors paraded from the school grounds on their way to First Street Thursday, June 10. – Photo by Ken Stern

La Conner High School has held commencement exercises for more than a century. 

But this year graduation is truly the hottest ticket in town. 

Due to COVID-19 protocols, each graduate is allotted only eight tickets for family and friends to attend the high school’s 127th annual commencement 5 p.m. Friday at Whittaker Field. For those without tickets, the June 18 event will be livestreamed, said Principal Kathy Herrera. 

Still, the situation is much more favorable than it was 12 months ago. 

“We’re lucky,” said Herrera, “to have a graduation ceremony this year.” 

She noted that in 2020 the school’s graduates were limited by the pandemic to a virtual commencement and downtown car parade. The La Conner High Class of 2021 has also fared well in terms of the ticket allotment, she noted. 

“Many of the schools around us,” she explained, “are only able to give out two tickets per graduate.” 

The outdoor commencement exercises will cap an academic year that began with students taking classes remotely. La Conner High transitioned in March to a hybrid instructional model, with students receiving two-and-a-half hours of in-person instruction per day. 

“I can’t tell you how amazing this class has been given everything they’ve dealt with,” Herrera said. 

Class President Haydyn Turner and 50 other senior class members will receive their much-anticipated diplomas on Friday. Two seniors, James Carlton and Marcus Mussivand, graduated early and another, Isabelle Williams, has also completed work on an Associate in Arts degree from Skagit Valley College. 

Ten members of the class, including valedictorian Sarah Malcomson and salutatorian MacQuaid Hiller, will graduate having earned National Honor Society status, which is based on outstanding scholarship, leadership, service and character. 

Ann Cloonan, Salena Bailey, Max Drews, Andre Knudson, Avery Sloniker, Anna Jane Thulen, Katie Watkins and Williams are also members of La Conner High’s NHS chapter and will be recognized at commencement. 

A trio of the National Honor Society grads have been selected as recipients of La Conner High’s perpetual display awards. Hiller will be presented the Megan Lisser Service to School Award. Knudson is to receive the Jack Whittaker Achievement Award. Sloniker has been chosen for the La Conner Kiwanis-Chuck Hedlund Community Service Award. 

Maya Masonholder will receive the Joanne Self Determination & Loyalty Award and Annaliese Whitney will be recipient of the Vince Sellen Community Service Award. 

The class will be formally presented by Superintendent Rich Stewart and receive diplomas from La Conner High Counselor Lori Buher. The seniors will be honored in song by the Swinomish Canoe Family. 

Along with Malcomson and Hiller, class members Isaiah Adams, Hailey Merritt and Elijah Porter have been tabbed for speaking roles. 

Watkins, who is the class secretary-treasurer and Thulen will open the ceremony with a welcome and lead those attending in the Pledge of Allegiance. 
Herrera said the Class of 2021 should be saluted for far more than its ability to navigate the uncharted waters of the virus crisis – itself no easy feat by any means. 

“This,” she said, “is an incredibly talented class. They are scholars in the truest sense of the word. They excel in so many different areas – academics, athletics, fine arts, drama, music, you name it. This is an exceptional group of stellar young men and women. They’re definitely going places.” 

And that journey starts with Friday’s program at Whittaker Field. 

The La Conner Eighth Grade Promotion ceremony is scheduled tonight (Wednesday) at 6:30 p.m. at the Bruce Performing Arts Center. Two people per student will be allowed to attend. The event, like high school graduation, will be livestreamed.