Southern Trinity residents turned out in force last Friday night to celebrate the 2019 graduating class of four seniors from Southern Trinity High School. All the well-wishers nearly filled the school gymnasium in Mad River for a traditional send-off filled with loving memories, good humor and best wishes for bright futures.
Ending with the final toss of four caps in the air, the graduation ceremony capped an evening that included earlier commencement exercises for the eighth graders entering high school in the fall as well as two graduates from the Southern Trinity Joint Unified School District’s Mt. Lassic Continuation High School.
All girls, the four Southern Trinity High School graduates had a role in the proceedings starting with Samantha Berry leading the Pledge of Allegiance followed by words of welcome from Daysha Jones. Class Salutatorian Mia Collins thanked family members for raising her; school faculty members for teaching her and her classmates for standing by her, congratulating them all with a happy “We did it!”
Class Valedictorian Daisy Kay marked the graduation as “a turning point” to both appreciate the past and engage with the future “as we begin our independent lives.” Three will attend colleges in the fall: Humboldt State University, College of the Redwoods and Sacramento State University. One plans to stay in the Southern Trinity community.
“There are only a few of us, but I see a bright future for us all,” Kay said.
The keynote speaker was Andy Felt, vice principal, teacher, guidance counselor and coach who said he was honored to be selected for the job by the students, “and I can’t believe you chose to listen to another speech from me.”
He said he stretched for an original story to tell and came up with one from his youth when parents dropped their kids off at the community swimming pool on summer days and the favorite game was to play “Flipper” based on the television show featuring a boy and his dolphin.
The challenge was to jump as high out of the water as possible from the deep end of the pool.
“One kid, Mike Johnson, was older, much bigger and had huge hands like paddles that helped him swim like crazy. He won the game almost every time. But then my friend James beat him, becoming legendary at the pool,” Felt said.
He did so by trying a new tactic of swimming to the very bottom of the pool, going “down, down down and then squatting on the bottom, using his legs to push up as hard as he could to burst through the surface and beat the record,” Felt said.
Some considered it cheating, “but we didn’t have any rules. We all copied him and eventually Mike Johnson won again which his personality needed to do,” Felt said, noting the lesson learned was that “we didn’t know we weren’t doing the best that could be done all along and that what seemed obvious wasn’t even true. Sometimes you have to take a different direction entirely, but most of us get lulled into our comfort zones and quit asking questions.”
He advised the graduates to “keep asking, keep questioning, keep pushing. Set high goals for yourselves and try new ways, reaching down deep and pushing hard.”
He also had personal words of appreciation and encouragement for each student, emotionally delivered, noting “each of you already has super powers, but also don’t be afraid to go to the bottom of the pool and push yourselves.”
The evening included presentations of awards and scholarships totaling more than $40,000 from local clubs and organizations, Coast Central Credit Union and a $30,000 award from the McConnell Foundation to the valedictorian, Daisy Kay to cover four years at Sac State.
Felt noted it was a grueling process to compete for the McConnell scholarship involving a lot of writing and speaking before a selection panel. Kay also received the high school’s essay of the year award chosen by coaches, the athletic director and Superintendent/Principal Peggy Canale.
Qualities considered include consistent involvement in activities; being a coachable athlete, a good student and a good role model for others.
Canale certified the class for meeting all graduation requirements and diplomas were awarded by her and members of the Southern Trinity Joint Unified School District Board of Trustees. A slide show was presented featuring each student from baby pictures to present leaving nary a dry eye before the graduates huddled in back of the gym one last time together to toss their caps in unison.