SANDPOINT — Saturday’s Forrest Bird Charter School commencement was equal parts celebration and laughter as the school’s 38 graduates took another step into the future in front of a packed house of family and friends at the Panida Theater.
That combination, with a healthy dose of perseverance and determination, has made this class special, Forrest Bird Charter teachers said. From working hard to finish up a last-minute paper in order to graduate to two students graduating with both their high school diploma and associates degree, the graduates always worked hard and showed a true strength of character that will see them far, they said.
“I am confident that each one of you has the academics you will need to follow your pathway toward your success but there is something more important that you have learned as well,” Forrest Bird principal Mary Jensen told the graduates before calling them onto the Panida stage to get their diplomas. “You have learned to ask questions, to work hard, to respect other people while maintaining your own values, to support people in need, to show empathy and love and to be kind. Please remember what other people have done for you and pay that forward. I ask you not to forget this as you travel the road to adulthood. These traits are far more important than academics and you will need them the rest of your life.”
The one-hour ceremony is deliberately packed with energy, fun, and laughter, said board member Jim Zuberbuhler. “It’s funny and zippy and everything a graduation ceremony should be.”
Those memories were celebrated by the students chosen senior speaker, fellow graduate Ethan VanGundy.
Each person you come into contact with bring new knowledge and experiences, he told his fellow graduates, adding that as a class they created special memories and grown together into people ready to take on the future.
“I’ve come to know each and every one of you over the past four years or so and I know that each and every one of you has dreams and aspirations and they are all different and special in their own ways,” VanGundy told his fellow graduates. “Be the person that Dr. Bird believes you are.”
VanGundy reminded his classmates that they’d been through a lot together, from an unforgettable freshman year to a memorable sophomore year to a special senior year.
“Normally you enter high school for the first time it’s a little intimately but we were welcomed with open arms,” he said. “The sense of community is something I’ve never experienced before. We all had the freedom to express who we were, establish our own individuality but we also acted as a collective body when we needed to come together and show support for one another.
From highs such as graduation to a tough loss when a favorite teacher passed away when they were freshman, he said they’ve banded together, grown and are now ready to take the next step.
“I think it’s safe to say we’ve been through a lot together, he said.
VanGundy had his fellow graduates laughing when he joked that their junior year “felt like a purgatory between sophomore and senior year, to be brutally honest. And I’m only saying that because of having to take biology for the sixth time.”
But despite the hardships and the good times, he told his fellow graduates that here they were, graduating.
“It’s over. We’re done. All the experiences we’ve had will shape who will we become in the future and I’m confident we’ll all turn out to be great people,” he said, adding jokingly “ultimately.
“Just know that we’re all in this together.”
VanGundy encouraged his classmates to remember what they’ve learned from their teachers and to go after their dreams.
“Keep driving forward, that’s the key, keep driving forward,” he said, turning serious. “Keep the momentum going. You’re all capable of doing everything you’ve ever dreamed of, all you have to do is apply yourself. It’s really that simple. I believe in you. Forrest Bird believes in you and most important, we all believe in you.”
VanGundy then looked at the family and friends gathered and thanked them for helping the graduates reach this milestone.
“Unbeknownst to some of you, you’ve helped us along the way in some way or another,” he told them. “Thank you for being here for all of us, encouraging us to keep going has been central to our success. It hasn’t been an easy four years but they’ve been the best four years of our lives.”
Caroline Lobsinger can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @CarolDailyBee.