by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Tualatin High School graduates celebrate at Memorial Coliseum.When Tualatin High School’s class of 2013 walked in Monday night’s graduation, it was led by not one, but 14 valedictorians.

Each had completed requirements to graduate while on the honors track, maintaining a solid 4.0 grade point average while taking advance-level classes. And in addition to exceling with demanding course loads, the team of valedictorians represented a colorful variety of extracurricular interests, as well: They were standout baseball, basketball and tennis players, and record-setters in track and field; members of the National Honor Society, with at least one Broadway-caliber musical theater starlet among them. The group could even boast an Eagle Scout and a pair of equally achieving identical twins.

For top-ranked seniors like Vanessa Chizum, the designation of valedictorian was a dream come true.

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“I gave myself the goal in sixth grade,” Chizum said. “I told myself I was going to do it, I was going to push myself — to try to be the best I could be. It was an honor.”

Chizum found out she would walk as a valedictorian around the same time she was awarded a $10,000 scholarship from Tualatin-based Lam Research, Inc., a semiconductor equipment manufacturer which aims to support students pursuing degrees in the science and technology fields. Chizum will be studying diagnostic medicine, with a focus on ultrasound, at the Oregon Institute of Technology in the fall.

When it came time for representatives of the class of 2013 to reflect on the year and inspire classmates, three graduating seniors tapped into everything from personal anecdotes to quotes from the television show “Dr. Who.”

Ryan Elder, who delivered an address to his classmates on the importance of identity and authenticity, described the selection process as a “speak-off” with valedictorians, teachers and Principal Darin Barnard voting on each of the 14 speeches in order to select the top three.

Tanner Mitton opened on a playful note, congratulating his colleagues on completing “four years of public education riddled with budget cuts” before warning them against giving into cynicism that could prevent them from creating “a much better reality” for themselves and others in the coming years.

“Today is a day for celebration,” Mitton said, “but tomorrow, be prepared to roll up your sleeves and get to work.”

Aidan Grealish spoke in defense not only of her class but of her generation, nicknamed the Millenials and, as she described, maligned in the press and pop culture as “lazy, self-centered and constantly consumed by how many retweets we get.”

“And those pointless, self-absorbed things,” Grealish added, “they’re actually a bright beacon of the future,” outlining the ways her peers have managed to mainline creativity and transmit their work in an artistic arena that affords a greater and more immediate audience.

“We’re making art. We’re connecting with people across the globe. We’re creating social movements. And we still have the time to post our selfies to Instagram,” Grealish said.

“We’re not just the ME generation. We’re the WE generation, the connected generation, the creative generation.”

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