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The June 11 commencement ceremony for Two Rivers School was a emotional culmination of years of hard work and overcoming obstacles.
The alternative high school graduated 12 seniors, each of whom were introduced to the proud, cheering audience with personalized speeches from school staff.
Teacher Jack Webber choked up as he praised the progress of graduate Chance Turner, who attended three middle schools before finding a place to thrive at Two Rivers.
"He's a real success story," Webber said of Turner, who had customized his commencement look by wearing a baseball hat under his graduation cap.
Teacher Michael Schmidt got laughs when he performed a rap song, co-written by his creative writing students, to introduce Vicky Klement.
All graduates had an opportunity to speak; most thanked their families, friends and school staff for pushing them along toward their goals.
Through tears, the Rotary Club award winner, Rachel Wyss, expressed her appreciation to teachers.
"If it wasn't for them, and my sister threatening to beat me up if I didn't keep my grades up, I wouldn't be here," she said.
Wyss received a $100 savings bond from Rotary, and her name will be added to a plaque at the school.
A projected slideshow in the back of Chief Kanim Middle School's commons displayed photos of a graduating class whose members participated in tree-planting projects at Three Forks, tutored children at Opstad Elementary School, earned science credit at a field trip to Woodland Park Zoo, and put on a three-man adaptation of "Romeo and Juliet."
Teachers said they'll miss single mom Kim Quinn and her six-month-old son, who joined her on campus. A Running Start student at Bellevue Community College, Quinn plans to pursue a career in nursing.
A few members of the Snoqualmie Valley school board and Superintendent Joel Aune were on hand to congratulate the graduates.
"This is always a highlight for me. It's very inspiring," Aune said.
Graduation speaker Marci Busby, school board president, gave a top-ten list of life advice, and emphasized that students hadn't achieved their graduation goals singlehandedly.
"You have all overcome obstacles, some small, some not so small," she said. "Take a moment tonight to thank the people who have helped you."
Commencement was just as exciting and meaningful for staff as it was for graduates and their families, said Two Rivers Principal Tom Athanases.
"At the end of this night is when we get everybody to sign up for another year of teaching. The frustrations of May go away when they get to participate in this."