Juneau-Douglas High School seniors entered the gymnasium solemnly on Sunday, accompanied by the march Pomp and Circumstance. But graduation quickly became a lighthearted affair celebrated with selfies, beach balls and confetti.
Student speaker Manuel Guillen told the 164 graduating seniors that when in doubt, do what feels right.
“Now is the time where everything we’ve been taught is going to be tested to the limits.”
The ceremony also was marked with moments of silence for two members of the class of 2014, who passed away in accidents. Jessica Billy died in a vehicle accident in March and Savannah Cayce died in 2012 from injuries in an accident on Auke Lake.
Forty JDHS students finished with a grade point average of 3.5 or higher.
In the Mendenhall Valley, 158 graduated from Thunder Mountain High School, the fifth graduating class since the school opened in 2008.
Twenty-six had a GPA of 3.5 or higher, and three were valedictorians, meaning they had a perfect 4.0, or “A” average for their four years of high.
Valedictorian Jenna Luhrs challenged her classmates to be thankful for what they have, always keep moving forward, and be compassionate along the way.
“Our education thus far has encompassed countless blessings, and I’m not talking about the ability to write in cursive, or the skills required for a book report. I’m referring to the teachers who never gave up on us, the coaches who always believed in us, and our friends and family who continue to support us unconditionally.”
Retired JDHS teacher Clay Good spoke at both graduations, telling the students to live a life that creates meaning.
At TMHS, assistant baseball coach Joe Tompkins recalled the words from the 1977 Fleetwood Mac song “Don’t Stop Thinking about Tomorrow.”
If you stop thinking about tomorrow and dwelling in the past, he said, you will stop living your life.
Before the TMHS graduates received their diplomas, Tompkins warned them to celebrate without alcohol and drugs. He was paralyzed in a 1988 alcohol-related car accident near Auke Bay. Tompkins got a standing ovation from the crowd for his speech.
Graduation ceremonies for Yaakoosgé Daakahídi Alternative High School were held at Centennial Hall earlier in the day, with 38 students earning their diploma.
Juneau School District Superintendent Glenn Gelbrich attended commencement ceremonies for all three Juneau high schools for the last time. Gelbrich has been hired as superintendent for the Kelso, Wash. school district. He has been superintendent in Juneau since 2009.