Juneau-Douglas graduates 300

Keynote speaker urges graduates to experience life, but to also return

Posted: Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Juneau-Douglas High School graduated 300 seniors during a commencement ceremony for the class of 2009 Tuesday evening.

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Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

Parents, friends, teachers and family packed the gymnasium on the unusually warm evening at the downtown high school.

The JDHS orchestra played "Pomp and Circumstance" and "The Star Spangled" Banner was sung in a duet by graduating seniors, Aaron Badilla and Jazmin Cherian.

Nick Waldo, graduating with a 4.0 grade point average, talked about success, responsibility and failure during a short speech.

"Starting today you get to decide for yourself what it means to be successful," Waldo told his classmates. "Find what success means for yourself. This is your life. You only get one. Go out and live it."

Student Kayla Harrison also spoke and drew chuckles from the crowd as she poked fun at being a high school student at JDHS.

Sarcastically calling the school song "a mastery of the English language," she recited the first few lines: "I am a Bum Jigger; I am a Hoe Potato," she said. Then, "But I am not half-past an alligator, because that's disgusting."

Harrison drew inspiration from television's "The X-Files'" Fox Mulder character in offering advice to classmates: "We have to keep going, Scully."

And finally, she said, "This has been fun, so keep these good times 'cuz that's the only wealth you'll have in college."

Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho, who as the keynote speaker was introduced by his son, graduating senior Alex Botelho-Alvarez, noted that that class of 1959 was the first in Juneau to attend school together at JDHS, since that was the year schools in the district were combined.

"Now, 50 years later, you are the last class," Botelho said, referring to the fact Thunder Mountain High School will graduate its own senior class next year.

Botelho, who himself graduated 43 years ago from JDHS, noted that Alaska achieved statehood in 1959, and that seniors then were aware they were part of the state's history.

Back then, he said, ferries only ran during the summer months, Juneau's population was barely 10,000, and high school graduates could plan to attend the Juneau-Douglas Community College for $7.50 per credit hour. A powerline was dragged into the channel during a snow slide that year, legislators were fighting over where to put the capital, and 63 students graduated from JDHS.

Botelho told the seniors to broaden their lives with experiences but to remember that they have the power of a shared place.

"I ask you to come back and make a difference," he concluded. "Alaska needs you, Juneau needs you."

The ceremony lasted until past 9 p.m. and was followed by a dance in the gym.

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