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Valedictorian to NM grads: Do not lose your individuality'

Shelton-Mason County Journal of Shelton, Washington

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As the North Mason School District seniors took their seats and faced the stage in the Kitsap Sun Pavilion on Friday night for their graduation ceremony, their decorative caps offered a brief snapshot into their lives.

Some hung air fresheners from their mortar boards, while others decked the grad cap in their future colleges' colors. Some seniors added bows or glitter, and one graduate's cap declared, "I did it for my cats."

The spark of individuality set each one of the 149 seniors from North Mason and James A. Taylor high schools apart as their names were called to walk across the stage to receive their high school diploma.

North Mason High School had 146 students graduate, with 142 participating in the graduation ceremony. James A. Taylor High School graduated 21 students total, with seven students walking in the ceremony.

Valedictorian Zach Schaumburg quoted Robert Orben during his address, saying, "A graduation ceremony is an event where the commencement speaker tells thousands of students dressed in identical caps and gowns that 'individuality' is the key to success."

Schaumburg laughed, adding that once the grads remove their robes, they would be dressed far from identical.

He advised graduates, "Do not lose your individuality; keep an open mind."

North Mason High School Principal Chad Collins said the class of 2016 earned more than $250,000 in scholarships, and plan to attend college at places such as University of Washington, Eastern Washington University, Hawaii Pacific University, Oregon State and Tacoma Community College.

Collins also gave out two Bulldog Pride awards during the ceremony.

The first went to music teacher Chris Drewry. Collins said Drewry engaged students and crafts a first-rate music program.

"And he has the awards to back it up," Collins said.

Bill Geyer received the second Bulldog Pride award. Geyer was the high school baseball coach and parent of graduating senior, Daulton. Collins said he'd had Geyer in mind for the award for many years because of his dedication to the school and the community.

Geyer was diagnosed with appendiceal cancer last summer, but continued to coach the baseball team — and his son — this spring. As Geyer took the stage Friday night to accept his award, the audience stood and chanted "BG strong," which the baseball team wore on their jerseys this year in honor of their coach.

Legacy was the word of the day for the seniors. The class' motto is, "Some have a story; we have a legacy."

Class speakers, including senior class president Jacob Tieszen, class vice president Hailey Somerday, Mehgan Castillo, salutatorian Aaron Chu and Steffen Riener, reminded students that what they do now will shape not only their futures, but also the lives of those who come after them.

"There are others looking up to us," said Riener. "We're setting the pace for the classes below us."

He added that while many students are not even 10 percent of the way through their lives, the way they choose to act in high school "will alter the person we become."

Chu gave graduates advice on success, the meaning of life and even death.

"Society wants you to shut up and obey — don't," he said. "You like to dance? Do it and love it.... You like to flip burgers? Do it, and be the best burger flipper ever."

Chu also spoke about the recent loss of a close friend and his grandparents, and reminded graduates that they are not guaranteed tomorrow.

"You can choose to live day to day until you perish, or you can choose to live a legacy," he said.

Copyright 2016 Shelton-Mason County Journal, Shelton, Washington. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: June 23, 2016

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