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The high school celebrates a 'happy day' as it sends 348 into the world

by: GARY ALLEN - After receiving their diplomas and successfully
executing the ceremonial switching of their tassels from one side of their mortarboards to the other, graduates celebrated the end of the ceremony by tossing their mortarboards in the air (right).Former Newberg High School teacher and counselor Kay Johnston knows a happy day when she sees one.

Friday certainly qualified for the 348 students who received diplomas from Newberg High School and, as guest speaker, Johnston encouraged the Class of 2014 to continue seeking them out on a beautiful but blustery evening at Loran Douglas Field.

“You are many of the strings of joy that bring us happiness,” Johnston told the graduates. “For happiness, ladies and gentlemen, is not a destination, it’s a way of life.”

The concept of a happy day was passed down to Johnston by her mother and is still an important one for her. She was glad to share with the 3,000 or so friends and family members in attendance how thankful she is to start each day by saying “happy day” to her mother and proud to relate that her mother still celebrates each one.

“To be happy is to find small joys in life and string them together,” Johnston said.

Honoring others, appreciating those that help you, aspiring to do what you love and love the way you do, were among the many simple ways Johnston said the graduates can find happiness daily as they enter the next chapter of life. But, perhaps most importantly, she also encouraged them to hope the best is yet to come.

“Your culture, your family heritage and family experiences make up your yesterdays, your foundation,” Johnston said. “You can’t change it, so honor it. Today, live it to the fullest. Tomorrow, speak of what you are going to do, not what you have done. If you are constantly looking behind you, your eyes aren’t on the road ahead.”

From Harry Potter headmaster Albus Dumbledore and Hannah Montana to Pippi Longstocking and Dr. Seuss, NHS’s eight valedictorians relayed quotes and advice from their favorite fictional characters in addressing their classmates.

A big fan of A.A. Milne, Nicole Fawver implored her peers to remember the words of Christopher Robin, who said to Winnie the Pooh, “There is something you must always remember: you are braver than you believe, you are stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.”

Adding the musical touch this year were graduate Haley Harn, who performed the national anthem (watch at http:// youtu.be/DtgLkVj1Zlg), and Marlee Schroll, who sang Lady Antebellum’s “Never Alone” (http://youtube/ V1753SSTD2I).

Recognizing that the leadership structure of four principals each in charge of one small school will change next year, members of the Associated Student Body presented Dan Malone, Karen Pugsley, Eric Bergmann and Stafford Boyd with their own special graduation sashes.

“I was very touched by this gesture and the appreciation given by the crowd assembled,” Malone wrote Sunday in what he noted could be his last weekly newsletter as sole principal of Blue School.by: GARY ALLEN - Graduate Marlee Shroll (below) sang ‘Never Alone' by Lady Antebellum during the senior talent portion of the NHS commencement ceremony Friday evening at Loran Douglas Field.

In addition to handing out diplomas to those graduates on hand, high school and school district officials presented honorary degrees to the families of Marissa Poznanski and Alex Weiler, two members of the Class of 2014 from Yellow School that died in the past two years. Poznanski died after complications from a bone marrow transplant during her sophomore year; Weiler perished in a car crash just more than a year ago.

“He’s in our hearts,” graduate Isaac Rauch said of Weiler. “It’s been a tough year for a lot of Yellow School. It’s been challenging, but it’s brought us all closer together.”

Rauch, who will attend the University of Oregon to study product design, designed an “AW” logo in honor of Weiler shortly after his death and helped produce about 30 vinyl copies that he and other students displayed on the back of their mortarboards Friday.

“I went through Alex’s graphic design portfolio and a common theme in a lot of his stuff was really clean, sharp edges,” Rauch said. “So that’s what inspired me to have this plain, blocked off, but a little bit abstract AW.”

The class of 2014 was noted for being as talented as it was diverse, a fact that was driven home by the acknowledgement of the seven exchange students, like Saudi Arabia’s Ali Alnamlah, who received diplomas Friday.

Alnamlah, who hails from Alqassin just outside the capital of Riyadh, came to Newberg midway through the school year after having a problem with his host family in Vancouver, Wash.

Although he will have one more year of high school to complete when he returns to Saudi Arabia, Alnamlah said he was both nervous and excited.

“I’ve really enjoyed it here,” Alnamlah said. “I’ve met new people, I’ve had ups and downs, but I’ve learned many things over here.”

Lacrosse standout Eric Albin, who may attempt to play for the Beavers when he attends Oregon State in the fall, could hardly contain his joy.

“I’m ecstatic, I’m so happy,” Albin said. “I think what’s uniquely Newberg is just the people, just Blue School in general. We’re such a random of assortment of people and I’ll miss that a lot.”

Rauch, who transferred from NHS to C.S. Lewis as a sophomore before returning to public school for his final two years, said he was happy with where his journey led him and echoed the sentiments of Alnamlah and many other members of the Class of 2014, noting that graduation encompasses a range of emotions.

“It’s awesome,” Rauch said. “I’m anxious but at the same time relieved. It’s a new start. It’s the real world now.”

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