Eight students took that next step in life Saturday morning as the first graduating class from Lacey’s Pope John Paul II High School, the newest Catholic secondary school in the region.
Faculty, board members and about 200 family members and friends also gathered at St. Michael Parish’s Westside Chapel for the 90-minute ceremony honoring graduates Spencer Adams, Fernando Benitez, Huy Hoang, John Johnson, Dakota Mello, Nicholas Owens, Jonathan San Nicolas and Rebecca Wetzel.
A ninth student, Xin Gao, who graduated from his high school in China, participated in the ceremony as the school’s first exchange student.
Salutatorian Hoang, originally from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, recalled his earliest days at the school, a time when he felt nervous and chose to sit by himself at lunch, observing those around him.
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But the other students didn’t let that last. They finally came up to him, wanting to know more about who he was, Hoang said.
He called it a very welcoming experience and added that he always felt he could be himself. Hoang, who came to the United States in 2011, also praised the school’s diversity.
Hoang, who received two scholarships, is set to attend Pacific Lutheran University in the fall.
Valedictorian Wetzel, who received a scholarship and is set to attend the University of Portland, also recalled student life, such as the procrastinating and cramming for tests that she and her fellow graduates did, jamming all that knowledge into their brains “to get here today,” she said.
Wetzel also said the graduates were role models for one another.
But perhaps the highlight of the ceremony was a performance by the high school jazz band, which included Wetzel on flute and San Nicolas on drums, banging away like a young Buddy Rich.
San Nicolas said afterward that he has been playing drums for two years, and he also plays in an alternative progressive band.
San Nicolas plans to go to South Puget Sound Community College and then transfer to Saint Martin’s University, he said.
Pope John Paul II High School opened in September 2010, welcoming 20 freshman and sophomore students, according to its website.
Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403 firstname.lastname@example.org/bizblog