CLASS OF 2014 | South Kitsap's Baur takes the long road to commencement

South Kitsap High School graduates Sarah Wasserman and Aigul Baur, right, sneak a peek at the crowd before commencement Tuesday night at Tacoma Dome. - Chris Chancellor/Staff Photo
South Kitsap High School graduates Sarah Wasserman and Aigul Baur, right, sneak a peek at the crowd before commencement Tuesday night at Tacoma Dome.
— image credit: Chris Chancellor/Staff Photo

TACOMA — She hurled the cap provided by a staff member toward the ceiling multiple times during a graduation rehearsal at South Kitsap High School.

And before the commencement ceremony began Tuesday night at Tacoma Dome, she snuck a peek behind the curtain that separated graduates from the audience.

No one said a word. After all, perhaps none of the school’s 541 graduates traveled farther for this moment than Aigul Baur.

She was born in Russia and immediately ended up in foster care, which took her to Kazakhstan. Baur said she said her mother, Valerie, decided she wanted a child when her sister was pregnant. After watching a video, Baur said her mother chose to adopt her. She was 8 years old at the time.

When people ask Baur why she perpetually seems happy, she shares that story.

She did not get upset even when a classmate knocked her over during prom.

“The person who ran into me … I hadn’t seen her in a long time so I gave her a hug,” she said, laughing.

“When you see me around school — or anywhere — you will see a camera around my neck or a big smile on my face. You will never see me frown.”

Perhaps her only disappointment was not being allowed to bring her camera to commencement. Baur, who plans to study photography at Seattle Central Community College, also credits her mother for her passion.

“When I first met my mom, she had a camera and I grabbed it,” she said. “I started taking photos of anything.”

Baur now has photos ranging from a closeup with a hummingbird to a trio of cheerleaders casting a classmate into the air on her online gallery:

One photo that is not present in the gallery is her favorite. She said that one, which features the Space Needle distorted in a manner that makes it appear much smaller, hangs in her living room. Baur said she sold a copy of it for $75.

In the future, Baur might travel to take photos — with one destination in mind.

“It’s on my bucket list to definitely go back and maybe even look for my family to see if they have any resemblance toward me,” she said.

Regardless of where her journeys take her, Baur vows to live by a simple mantra.

“I just live my life how it is,” she said. “I just want to have a good life.”

• While most SKHS graduates were celebrating the finality of their time at the school, Aubrianna Lipp had a little different perspective. Even after graduation, she will represent the high school. That is because Lipp is among the school’s choir students who will travel later this month to begin a 15-day tour of Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Italy. They are scheduled to perform at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, Austria, and several other community events throughout their tour.

“We get to do all of these amazing festivals, work with amazing musicians and get to learn awesome stuff,” said Lipp, adding that this will be her first trip away from North America. “It’s a great learning experience that’s definitely taught me a lot.”

Lipp said she plans to study music education at Central Washington University.

“I think choir really changed my perspective on what I wanted to do because Mr. [Mike] Allen really changed my life,” she said, referring to the school’s choir instructor. “I want to do that for all of the other kids that I hopefully get to teach.”

• Noel Damian wanted to immerse himself with the myriad athletics and activities offered at the state’s largest high school. He became well-known among his peers in the process as they elected him senior class president.

“It’s really bittersweet for me,” Damian said. “It’s really surreal. It’s the beginning of another chapter of my life.”

Damian, who planned a variety of events in his role, including prom, has no aspirations to pursue a career in politics, though. But not because he did not enjoy his tenure.

“I got really good hands-on experience in leading people,” Damian said.

Instead, he found his passion through the clubs he became engaged with.

“I joined ROTC this year just to give me a little boost in knowledge of the Navy,” Damian said. “That really helped out a lot.”

Damian now plans to enlist in the Navy.

“I just want to do anything with my hands,” he said. “Anything mechanical or electronics. I would love to be in that field.”


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