South Kitsap graduates undaunted by society’s challenges

Soon-to-be graduates peer from behind a curtain to see and wave at family and friends gathered in the stands at the Tacoma Dome for South Kitsap High School
Soon-to-be graduates peer from behind a curtain to see and wave at family and friends gathered in the stands at the Tacoma Dome for South Kitsap High School's graduation ceremony.
— image credit: Greg Skinner

The economy has been rough. College tuition has soared.

But when it comes to the future, South Kitsap High School graduates expressed nothing but optimism when discussing their future Friday night at the Tacoma Dome.

“To those that say our generation is lazy, apathetic and uncaring, we’ll show you we are the greatest generation the world has ever seen,” commencement speaker Ethan Kalkwarf said.

In essence, Kalkwarf and fellow speaker Nicole Hinely, who will pursue a nursing degree at Washington State University, both spoke about how their counterparts should not place limitations on themselves moving forward.

Particularly when it comes to using negative information as a reason for not reaching their potential.

“That kind of negative attitude pushes us,” Hinely said. “It motivates us to work for it.”

Drew Boening, who hopes to become either an actor or psychologist at Cornish College or Central Washington, agreed. He said rising college tuition expenses give students more incentive to apply for scholarships.

“I am thankful for getting an education,” said Boening, who competed last month in New York on Broadway at the August Wilson Theater.

The commencement program listed 558 graduates and 10 foreign-exchange students. Many expressed that pursuing a career that they are interested in is more important than making a lot of money.

Among them was Ryan Griffin, who hopes to become a firefighter. He said his mother, who worked in the Forest Service in California, “sparked” his interest in that career.


While he was at South, Griffin took classes at West Sound Tech in Bremerton, where he said guest speakers continued to cultivate his interest in firefighting. Griffin,

who said he actively pursued and earned scholarships, plans to attend Tacoma Community College.


“That was important because (my family) wasn’t too well off,” he said.

Austin Fritz, who ran cross country and track for the Wolves, also said he values pursuing a career based more on enjoyment than money. He feels he found that with mechanical engineering, the major he will pursue at Olympic College.

Fritz, who said he was diagnosed with autism when he was about 2 years old, said graduating from South was significant to him because he faced some significant challenges to reach that point. Among those were standardized tests, particularly in English. Fritz credited his perseverance for getting him through that.

He was thankful to his friends for supporting him through all of that.

“I can still be with my friends no matter what my emotions are,” Fritz said.

Before students were awarded diplomas, superintendent Dave LaRose reinforced that message.

“Believe that you are loved,” he said. “Believe that the best is still to come.”


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