Seniors at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé enter the gymnasium for their commencement ceremony on Sunday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Seniors at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé enter the gymnasium for their commencement ceremony on Sunday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

JDHS graduates celebrate journey from virtual ‘pajama class’ freshmen to virtuous camaraderie

Resolve in overcoming struggles a lifelong lesson for future, seniors told at commencement ceremony.

For a graduating class that entered Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé as freshmen without actually entering — due to remote learning at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic — it was only fitting Sunday’s commencement ceremony had some farewell moments involving virtual gadgetry.

During her welcoming remarks JDHS Principal Paula Casperson asked all-state basketball star Alwen Carrillo, sitting in the center front row among the graduates, to Google “commencement” on his cell phone (and her niece, Chloe Casperson, sitting next to him in the alphabetical-order seating, to spell the word).

“Commencement means a beginning or a start. And if we’re here gathered to recognize the beginning that means you’re also here to acknowledge…what?” she asked. After a “bear with us” pause while the meaning was forthcoming, she continued “an end — with every beginning there must also be an end.”

“Rites of passage are the acknowledgment of your individual accomplishment, but they are also communal recognition of your place in this society,” she said.

Noting the pandemic disrupted some of the conventional in-person rituals while going through school such as their eighth-grade graduation, “this is the first in-person person ceremony to do just that since you promoted in fifth grade. That makes today tremendously significant for you — the graduates — and for your friends and family. I want you to take a moment to look around the gym. Try to make meaningful eye contact with one of the people who has walked alongside you for this journey.”

Ryan Shattuck delivers one of the two featured student speeches during Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé’s commencement ceremony on Sunday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Ryan Shattuck delivers one of the two featured student speeches during Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé’s commencement ceremony on Sunday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Ryan Shattuck, the first of two featured student speakers, started with his own smartphone moment, taking a selfie of himself with the crowd in the backdrop before narrating his classmates through a collective school experience where “we made it through elementary and middle school in one of the scariest decades known to man — the 2010s.” After that, he said, “we were COVID freshmen.”

“We became Crimson Bears without even walking through the door,” he said. “Instead of rushing through our classes like most freshmen do, we instead took our time to open our eyes, sit up in our bed, grab our computers, open our computers and login to our Zoom classes. And then we went back to sleep.”

Then during sophomore year “we are immediately expected to be able to pay attention in class, participate in school activities and show love for a school that we had just set foot in,” Shattuck said. But the arrival and completion of senior year “I think perfectly reflected how we handled situations like the ones we were put in,” including what he said was navigating “one of the hardest college application processes since COVID.”

“There is so much more left to go and much more maturing to do,” he said. “Like gaining self-confidence…learning good decisions from bad decisions, and learning that even though once again we are being thrown into the next stage of our lives not properly prepared we will once again figure it out.”

Meadow Stanley delivers one of two student speeches during the graduation ceremony Sunday at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Meadow Stanley delivers one of two student speeches during the graduation ceremony Sunday at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

The other student speaker, Meadow Stanley, noted that “on my first day of high school I wore bright purple pajama pants and a blue tie-dye sweatshirt.”

But despite some first-time glitches with remote learning “from the moment I began at JDHS I felt a kinship with my peers that I can only describe as a familiar camaraderie,” she said. “Each day I get to come back here to this place and learn to grow up with these people.”

“If there’s one thing that the Class of 2024 has taught me is that no matter what circumstances it is the people around you that make your experiences what they are,” she said. “I have been lost, then found, then lost again. I have doubted myself and wondered exactly what this is all for…But the one thing that has always remained true is my peers standing beside me. Through rain or shine the Class of 2024 has remained a constant presence in my life.”

Lexie Razor, a teacher and softball coach at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé, delivers the keynote address during Sunday’s commencement ceremony. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Lexie Razor, a teacher and softball coach at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé, delivers the keynote address during Sunday’s commencement ceremony. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Offering a keynote speech emphasizing how far the graduates have come in the real world, after starting in a virtual one in their pajamas, was Lexie Razor, who coached the JDHS Crimson Bears’ softball team to a state title last year. Noting she offers a “word of the day” to her team — “it pulls us together as a team, and allows us to have the same goal and anchor for the day” — she offered three to the graduating class, starting with “kind.”

“Being kind will cost you nothing, but it will give you endless benefits,” she said. “Being kind is contagious, and can change an environment and an entire atmosphere.”

The next word from Razor was “resilient.”

“You have it in you to pick yourself up when things don’t go your way,” she said. “Remember to learn from your mistakes and work hard to get what you want. For the majority of you things will not be given to you. You will have to work to get jobs or to earn that degree, you will have to work to pay your bills and provide for your family. Some of you will suffer losses that will shake you to your core. But remember you have a need to move on to find your way to be resilient.”

Natalia Martin receives her diploma from Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé Principal Paula Casperson during Sunday’s commencement ceremony. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Natalia Martin receives her diploma from Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé Principal Paula Casperson during Sunday’s commencement ceremony. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Finally, Razor said, “my last word for you is ‘courageous.’”

“Put your phone down,” she said. “Make new friends. Try new things. Become the person you want to be. It can be scary and lonely when you look around, and things are different than what you’re used to. But I asked you to look at those situations as opportunities to grow and to become your best person.”

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

An assortment of artistic decorations are seen on the tops of students’ caps during the graduation ceremony Sunday at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

An assortment of artistic decorations are seen on the tops of students’ caps during the graduation ceremony Sunday at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Newly graduated students at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé move their tassels from right to left after receiving their diplomas during Sunday’s commencement ceremony. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Newly graduated students at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé move their tassels from right to left after receiving their diplomas during Sunday’s commencement ceremony. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Students toss their graduation caps at the conclusion of Sunday’s commencement ceremony at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Students toss their graduation caps at the conclusion of Sunday’s commencement ceremony at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Arielle Gemino, 18, shows off her new diploma and gifts as family members take photos in the commons area at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé following Sunday’s commencement ceremony. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Arielle Gemino, 18, shows off her new diploma and gifts as family members take photos in the commons area at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé following Sunday’s commencement ceremony. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

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