SENIORS GO OUT WITH A POP – A last surprise from the 2019 La Conner High School graduating class came just before they recessed: confetti cannons were pulled out and they showered themselves and the gym floor with glitter. May all their roads ahead be bright. Congratulations! – Photo by Ken Stern
La Conner High seniors went out with a bang Thursday night. Near the end of the school’s 125th annual commencement exercises the large audience at Landy James Gymnasium was briefly shaken by a loud celebratory confetti blast. The surprise dramatic send-off for the Class of 2019 seemed a fitting salute to a student group noted for having done a bang-up job, reflected in numerous academic and athletic successes and devotion to public service and civic projects. Class speakers had earlier, though at much lower decibel levels, recounted many of those achievements, several of which are now recognized on state scholastic and sports championship banners. But reaching those lofty heights wasn’t as easy as it looked, according to Class Valedictorian Sophia Benetti, who thanked the La Conner faculty for teaching life lessons in addition to those shared from their subject areas. “They taught us,” said Benetti, “how to overcome the obstacles in life.” The La Conner High experience, she added, “made us stronger and more prepared to face the world.” For Benetti, that realization came well before graduation, She said it felt surreal to walk into the high school building on the first day of her senior year. “I realized then,” she said, “that it was the last year to make the best memories and forge the strongest friendships.” Salutatorian Matty Lagerwey, a multiple state athletics gold medalist – she wrapped up her senior year winning titles in volleyball and track-and-field – echoed those sentiments. “We’re more than just classmates,” said Lagerwey, who wrote her speech on the flight home from the senior class trip to Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm. “We have a bond that will last for the rest of our lives.” Class speakers Arlo Liddell and Jack Tronsdal went off-script to offer shout-outs of their own, each offering thanks to their classmates and La Conner staff. “I’m so grateful,” Liddell said, “to be a part of this class.” “Above all else,” added Tronsdal, “we feel overwhelming gratitude.” On graduation night, the class had hundreds of thousands of reasons to be grateful. La Conner Middle and High School Counselor Lori Buher, joined by guest presenters, announced scholarship awards totaling well into six figures. The largest of those, presented by Vince Wilbur, who chairs the La Conner Community Scholarship Foundation, was the full-ride, four-year award made possible by a bequest from the estate of La Conner High alum Lea McMillan Diacos. Rachel Drake, this year’s recipient, was given a long standing ovation when her name was announced. She plans to attend Diacos’ college alma mater, Western Washington University. In all, La Conner seniors received over $160,000 in La Conner Community Scholarship Foundation support, Wilbur said. A host of other scholarships were awarded as well. Swinomish Tribal Senator Brian Wilbur presented full-ride scholarships from the Tribe to seniors Victor Bailey, Alexandria Bill, Jasmine Cayou, Mary Cisneros and Raven Edwards. La Conner Schools Director of Bands and Choirs McKenzie Clark announced two scholarship awards. The National School Choral Award was presented to Jack Tronsdal. The John Philip Souza Award was received by Kendall Johnson, who also performed a piano solo as part of the Commencement program. Lagerwey and Edwards each received a Susan Edwards Wilbur Memorial Scholarship, named in honor of a La Conner High alum who was the first Native American elected to the La Conner School Board. Janie Edwards Beasley, her sister, and chair of the La Conner School Board, announced the recipients. Susan Gardner Deyo, also a La Conner High alum, presented the James Gaches Gardner Memorial Scholarship, named for her brother, to Class of 2019 President Erik Nelson. Nelson, who offered the program’s official welcome, was also one of a trio of graduates to receive scholarships presented by La Conner Kiwanians. Benetti and Maizie McCollum were the others. Lagerwey, Benetti, Nelson, Matt Harper, Harley Hulbert and Molly Meissner were recipients of La Conner Rotary Club Scholarships. Skagit Rotarians presented scholarships to Lagerwey, Benetti, Kyle Jones and Madison Kooch. Kooch was also awarded the Austin Esary Memorial Scholarship. Lagerwey, Benetti, Nelson, McCollum, Alicia Guerrero-Gobert, Lily McLeod and Spencer Tripp were La Conner Soroptimist International Scholarship recipients. Tripp, who plans to attend Hawaii Pacific University, received a Whidbey Island Chapter of Military Officers Association of America Scholarship and a Washington State Honors Award. The Class of 2019 wasn’t alone in being celebrated. La Conner staff members not returning in the fall were acknowledged, with special recognition given retiring La Conner High teacher Mike Carrigan, the former Stanford University football player who taught a wide range of subjects during his 27 years here. He, like Drake, received a standing ovation. For Carrigan and the seniors, it wasn’t long before they were having a blast, standing amid a deluge of confetti that continued falling into Friday morning.