S. Kitsap Class of '08 graduates at Tacoma Dome

South Kitsap senior Kayla Bourboulis, right, hugs  fellow graduate Casey Armstrong after commencement at the Tacoma Dome on Friday night. - Jesse Beals/Staff Photo
South Kitsap senior Kayla Bourboulis, right, hugs fellow graduate Casey Armstrong after commencement at the Tacoma Dome on Friday night.
— image credit: Jesse Beals/Staff Photo

Rachel Cabacungan summed it up succinctly shortly before graduating from South Kitsap High School: “This is pretty unreal.”

And she wasn’t the only one feeling that way. Dressed in maroon caps and gowns, 672 seniors strode down the red carpet stretched along the Tacoma Dome’s concrete floor on Friday night, cementing their place as Wolves alumni.

After countless tests, after-school practices, club meetings – and the added pressure of being the first class to have to pass the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) to graduate, all that remained was the future.

“I feel like the last three years at South have gone by really fast,” Cabacungan said, adding, “I’m going to miss high school, but I’m very excited for everything that comes after this.”

For Cabacungan, that will be the Naval Academy, where she plans to major in Arabic or Chinese and become an intelligence officer.

Dana Abernathy felt similarly. “Tonight means a lot. It’s a culmination of my experience here at South. It’s pretty sweet.”

For him, the experience culminated in a 3.82 grade-point average and two chords: one for being an honor graduate and the other for National Honor Society.

“I felt I spent my time here at South as well as I possibly could,” she said of her academic accomplishments. “I’m proud of that.”

And for some, high school was also a social learning experience.

“I broke out of my shell,” said Kyle Aukland, who was involved with Natural Helpers. “It was good and fun. I attach to people, so I’m going to miss a lot of people.”

Aukland, who is going on to Olympic College, said he would like to return to South to teach. He credits teacher Ryan Yingling, who told him as an eighth-grader that he would be a teacher.

“I told him I wasn’t,” he said. “And now I’m going to be a teacher.”

Tanisha Hanson also mentioned her teachers as a key influence.

“I’ve loved South so much,” she said. “My teachers have instilled values and morals in me. More than just teaching me subjects, they’ve taught me how to be a better person.”

So what was it like being the first class required to pass the highest-stakes test in state history?

Hanson, who plans to study pediatric nursing at Seattle Pacific University, said her course load prepared her for the test, but doesn’t necessarily think it should be a graduation requirement.

“I just think there needs to be a little more work on what subjects they say we need to pass and which ones we don’t.”

Abernathy, who will study chemical engineering at Washington State, has a different point of view.

“I think having standardized testing for everybody is ridiculous,” she said. “People learn differently.”

Cabacungan, who took Advanced Placement classes, felt it was easy, but “it was kind of heartbreaking for all those people had to take it over and over again -- the math WASL in particular.”

She summed up the experience as “pay attention in school and you’ll pass it.”

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