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292 Grads Celebrate High School Commencement, Accomplishments

Photos by Zeva Rosenbaum

Lebanon High School’s 2024 commencement ceremony saw beautiful weather as the 292 graduates entered the football field to take their seats on June 4th.

Principal Craig Swanson opened the commencement by welcoming the graduates before beginning the presentation of the colors, led by Lieutenant Colonel Mark Smith, head of the high school JROTC.

Swanson also congratulated Sergeant Michael Sell on his retirement this year. Sell trained the color guard for the past 15 years following 23 years in the US Army.

Superintendent Jennifer Meckley praised grads for their perseverance, hard work and tenacity, referencing her 27-year education career as she said that Lebanon Warriors “carry themselves” with kindness, integrity and empathy, and that their community will continue to cheer them on.

“To the class of 2024, as you embark on the next chapter of your life know that you are not alone,” Meckley said. “You are part of a community, the network of alumni who believe in you, support you and celebrate your achievement. The future is filled with endless possibilities and I have no doubt that you will accomplish great things.”

Swanson also praised LHS for a 90% graduation rate, up from a projected 49% for the students who, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, were only freshmen.

“We have been through a lot over the past four years,” Swanson said. “Your freshman year you

didn’t actually attend (LHS), you sat in pajamas at your house with Chromebook screens, pretending to pay attention to your teachers, and we called that experiencing school as we worked through the final stages of a pandemic.”

Swanson detailed some of the impressive accomplishments for both the school and the graduates, such as eight seniors earning the State of Oregon Seal of Biliteracy, the cohort earning more than $175,000 in community-based scholarships, consecutive state cheer championships and more.

“We have graduates tonight who will be the first in their family to graduate from high school, we have graduates who will continue their education at a trade school, community college, four year university, or go straight to the workforce,” he said. “Take your diploma you earn tonight and put it towards something that will make yourself, your family and our community proud of you. Class of 2024, it has been an honor and a privilege to be your principal; on behalf of our entire staff I say thank you for the past four years and we all congratulate you as graduates of the Lebanon High School.”

Valedictorian Naida-Jordanne Wikner took the stage, admitting she was unsure as to how to sum up her experience at LHS and “hopes for the future” within the three minutes allotted, and talking about how quickly time passed from Zoom classes and masks to graduation.

“It’s crazy how time flies,” Wikner said. “If there’s one thing I’ve been taught through writing this speech – and getting through high school – it’s that you don’t always need to have answers to all of your questions. Sometimes you just have to let life lead you; you have to learn to go with the flow, as the saying goes.”

Valedictorians Annabelle Wells and Isabella Allydice gave their speech together, reminiscing on the beginning of their 14-year friendship at Pumpkin Seed Preschool, and selling books to their peers, and losing the science fair.

“Now we’re standing here together, as valedictorians,” Allydice said.

“Our experiences certainly have been advanced by the considerations of our teachers, coaches, family and friends,” Wells continued. “Thank you to everyone who has provided the opportunities for us to learn and grow into the people we are today.”

They detailed the ways they’ve grown and the opportunities they’ve had, from state cheerleading titles and robotics banners to friends made and skills learned.

“I’m surprised to be here, not here on the stage, necessarily, but at this spot in my life,” Allydice  said. “I didn’t know I’d learn so much about tennis this year, or become close friends with people I haven’t known very long, or get a technical foul for celebrating in a basketball game. I certainly didn’t expect to be preparing to attend Stanford next fall.”

Valedictorian Autumn Borruel encouraged her peers to look at failures as lessons, and not to give up on life even when reaching a “breaking point,” and quoted John A. Shedd’s  words, “a ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are made for.”

“Today we celebrate our release into the real world after serving parole and exhibiting somewhat good behavior,” Borruel quipped. “You should be very proud of all of your accomplishments and experiences throughout these last four years.”