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SLIDESHOW | Moment of change: Mount Si's Class of 2011 observes touching, funny milestone

Principal Randy Taylor knew it was coming. Max Brown had clearly shown him the poker chip before flipping it to him from about five feet away. Even so, he fumbled and dropped the chip, which rolled a little way, with Brown chasing it in his cap and gown.

It was one of many funny and touching scenes during Friday commencement exercises at Mount Si High School, where nearly 400 seniors were awarded their diplomas. Another was the fist bump between Kym McNiven and teacher Bill Halstead, who brought her walker around so she could walk, unassisted, from the stage where she got her diploma, to the spot where Taylor waited to shake her hand in congratulations.

Then there was the quiet finger-snapping accompaniment to Cassady Weldon’s singing of “I Will Remember You,” valedictorian Kaylee Galloway’s fist-pump when Taylor mentioned her traffic safety class record, the near-tackle hug that Robb Lane gave Taylor after receiving his diploma, and the ever-growing heap of candy necklaces family and friends were draping around Brianna Moetului's neck.

“It’s just a crazy Samoan tradition” explained her aunt.

There were more serious moments, too. Ten seniors were applauded for their decision to enter the armed forces after graduation. Kasey Channita, quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson, encouraged his fellow seniors to make their own paths, and highlighted the reasons that the class of 2011 is "A Class to Remember." He also assured students and parents and assured them that although their paths would take them all in different directions, they would always have their time in the Snoqualmie Valley in common.

Laura Woodward, the second student speaker chosen by her classmates, based her speech on NCAA basketball coach Jim Valvano's statement about the three most important things in life, "where you started, where you're going, and where you're going to be," and relived some favorite memories from the past four years. She asked her class to thank the people who helped them get here, parents and teachers, and closed with several definitions of success including Valvano's "If you laugh, think and cry (every day), that's a full day. If you do that seven days a week, you'll have something special."

Before and after the ceremony, students talked freely about their future plans, including those who didn’t have anything specific in mind. They planned to follow their passions, whether in service to country like Joseph Erlach and Shilo Waltz, in technology, like Taylor Bettine, who plans to attend the Colorado School of Mines because "I want to get us off our dependence on fossil fuels," or Ian Ilgenfritz, who is looking forward to starting at Central next year, where he plans to pursue a career in teaching.

In the high spirits of the ceremony, few expressed concerns about the economy and the future. "I think they're headed for great things," said Melissa Frederick, whose son graduates from Issaquah this week. Anyway, she said "Really, they've got nowhere to go but up."

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