Adapt and change. Don’t be afraid to follow a path. Dream big, and be kind.

That was the advice of teacher Jeff Corliss to the Seaside High School Class of 2021 last Thursday evening. Corliss addressed students, families and a YouTube audience from the Seaside Civic and Convention Center parking lot in downtown Seaside.

“Be open to new ideas, new experiences, and new ways of doing things,” Corliss said. “This pandemic has definitely given you a leg up on that. And you’ve shown that you can adapt and change.”

A Broadway Street closure launched a day to conclude the school year, coming after a year of masks, distance learning and a new high school building — not to mention classes, sports and extracurriculars.

Graduates gathered at the high school at 4 p.m., and one hour later their motorcade headed down Broadway to the Turnaround to receive their diplomas. Each car competed with the next for the most creative way to celebrate their graduates, decorated with flags, pompoms and balloons.

Members of the school board greeted each student and delivered their diplomas accompanied by the sounds of horns and cheers. Tassels blew in the wind as students held onto their signature red graduation hats, taking selfies and photos of besties at the culmination of their high school years.

Class of 2021 speaker Isabella Masse said over the past four years she has learned her voice matters. “I’ve learned to stand up not only for myself, but for others as well, and to express what I believe in,” she said.

Salutatorian Gracie Rhodes called graduation “the end of the first chapter of our story.”

“Fellow graduates, it is OK to be sad because you’re saying goodbye to your friends,” she said. “Parents, it is OK to be sad or happy because your children are going off on their own, whatever the case may be. But for everyone, be proud because this marks the first night of the rest of our lives.”

Westin Carter, with Luke Verley, the class’s valedictorians, shared the class’s team ethic.

“Truth No. 1: It takes a team and Seaside High School provides that team,” Carter said. “It’s so much more than one, because it wasn’t just me, it was a ‘we.’ Truth No. 2, it takes a community and there is none better. And truth No. 3, it takes a family and I’ve been blessed with the very best in my opinion. I love you all.”

Principal Jeff Roberts closed the night with a reflection, and a look ahead.

“We talk about legacies and what you leave behind,” he said. “And I can’t think of a better word than resilient. This group of young people is resilient, and perhaps more important than any attributes you carry forth is resilience. While this has been challenging, there are going to continue to be challenging times in your life.

“I’m confident after having navigated the last 12 months that you are prepared for whatever you face and whatever presents and you will be better for it,” Roberts continued. “I congratulate you. I am incredibly proud of you. This community is incredibly proud of you. I am excited and cannot wait to see the things that you accomplish in your lives. Oftentimes, as educators, we truly don’t know the impact we had on young people until well down the road. I ask you, four, five, six years down the road, come back and share with somebody that had an impact on you what you’ve done. That is our greatest reward.”

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