Seaside High School’s annual commencement ceremony to honor graduating seniors typically takes place in front of a packed house at the Seaside Civic and Convention Center.
Instead, the Class of 2020 took a slow drive down Broadway to the Turnaround where they received their diplomas with Tillamook Head looming in the background and cheering friends and family members lining the street.
Vehicles transporting the graduates were ushered to the public parking lot downtown where the official ceremony took place outdoors under waning light and drizzling rain that did little to hamper the positive energy emanating from the students, teachers, family members and friends in the audience.
The unusual look and feel of this year’s graduation ceremony — developed in response to the coronavirus pandemic that sent students home in March — was acknowledged throughout the ceremony, which was also marked by the honking of horns in lieu of clapping hands.
“I think I speak for all of us when I say this isn’t how we thought this year would go,” graduating senior Frida Ruff said, adding they expected a year full of final sports seasons, band concerts, state competitions and other memorable activities. “Despite the challenges facing us right now and the disappointment of missing out on our last high school experiences, I’ve seen the strength of our class and our community through these last several months.”
Instead of mourning the loss of this year, Ruff encouraged her peers to “treasure the memories of the first 11,” including the highs, lows and all the experiences “that shaped you into the person you are today: a graduate of Seaside High School.”
Ruby Douglas echoed the sentiment, applauding her peers for their persistence and perseverance in the face of unforeseen challenges this spring.
“With everything going on in the world right now, the future may seem even more scary than it already did,” she said. “Thankfully, with the amazing foundation we all grew up on, and the immense amount of support from community members and families, our futures have so much potential.”
In his speech, principal Jeff Roberts drew from a lingering memory of a senior awards assembly three years ago, during which he addressed the then-freshman class as “a class with a reputation.”
For three years, Roberts said, he has regretted that comment — until March 13, the day this particular class’s senior year “came to a screeching halt.”
“I realize now that my words, while in no way meant to be prophetic, were not incorrect, although the underlying inference was,” he said. “You have earned the reputation of being resilient, you have earned the reputation of looking adversity in the eye and saying, ‘Not today.’ You’ve earned the reputation of being agents of change and you’ve earned the reputation of caring about this world perhaps more than any generation before you.”
He encouraged the outgoing seniors to embrace that reputation and use it as a standard by which to measure themselves throughout their lives. He used the anecdote as an example of the importance of acknowledging an inaccurate opinion and being willing to evolve.
“I’d rather be a hypocrite than the same person forever,” Roberts said. “When you have new information, when you are proven wrong, you can change your mind and move forward. Don’t miss the opportunity to grow, to change, to be a better version of yourself for fear of saying goodbye to old touchstones.”