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Graduation

Class of 2012 members in Banks, Forest Grove and Gaston commence in style on a weekend filled with pomp
by: Chase Allgood, Justin Phelps, an assistant coach for various sports at Gaston High School, gives a beaded necklace to George Saul. Phelps handed out necklaces and leis to graduating Gaston athletes.

For the first time in recent memory, all three of the westernmost high schools in Washington County - Banks, Forest Grove and Gaston - held their commencement exercises within one two-day period last weekend.

Punctuated by the usual pomp, the ceremonies sent a new crop of graduates out into the world to seek jobs, college degrees and adventures unknown.

The Class of 2012 stepped into the history books when they doffed their mortarboards and grabbed their diplomas.

Banks High School graduated 91 students. Thirty-one seniors earned 87 college scholarships worth more than $740,000, according to Deanna Pickar of Banks High. The graduate planning to go the farthest afield to attend college is valedictorian Jessica Bonnett, who'll attend Franklin College in Switzerland, majoring in international communications.

New grads were treated to a party that included comedians, Starbucks coffee, laser tag, arcade games, and airbrushed tattoos.

At Forest Grove High School, $4.2 million in scholarships were awarded to this year's seniors, said retiring teacher and activities director Howard Sullivan. Parents of class members raised more than $15,000 to put on a graduation party at a community center in Vancouver, Wash., Saturday night after commencement exercises wound down at Liberty High School in Hillsboro.

There was swimming, basketball, volleyball, karaoke, a rock wall, casino games and pizza - 'the No. 1 food for teenagers,' Sullivan noted. Class member Kaihli Rutledge added a few activities to the party's full agenda: laser tag, sumo wrestling, bingo, ping-pong and a DJ.

'We got there about 10:30 p.m. and didn't leave until 5 a.m.,' she said.

Gaston High School's 34 graduates earned scholarships totaling over $500,000, said counselor Richard Ceder. Valedictorian William Lewis is going the farthest away for postgraduate studies, beginning his freshman year next fall at Kalamazoo College in Michigan.