The gymnasium at Thunder Mountain High School was packed Sunday afternoon with hundreds of parents, family and friends gathered to celebrate the 136 graduates who walked across the stage to receive their diplomas as a part of the graduating class of 2023.
Between the occasional blows of air horns, pops of confetti and bursts of loud cheers, faculty and students gave speeches to the students to congratulate them on their achievement and give advice for their future endeavors as newly christened alumni.
Juneau School District Superintendent Bridget Weiss gave an opening welcome speech to the students and families congratulating the class and expressing her happiness for the graduates’ continued dedication to their education throughout their high school career despite the COVID-19 pandemic starting when they were just in their freshman year.
“You’ve demonstrated strength, resiliency and came out stronger because of it,” she said. “I look forward to the amazing things that you’ll do with your future — congratulations class of 2023.”
One of the graduating class’s’ 13 valedictorians, Kylie Morris, agreed, and said she couldn’t have made it through the pandemic or her high school career without her “chill” classmates supporting her through it and each other as well.
“We were freshmen, and we lived through it and succeeded and we prospered,” she said.
Morris said if she could give advice to each of her peers it would be to “find your reason.”
“I don’t think I could have gone through high school or anything that I went through without finding my reason,” she said. “For me, it’s probably me and my younger siblings, but it could be a thing, a scenario or a belief — find your thing and lean back on it.”
The featured staff remarks were given by English teacher Angela Noon who said after watching numerous graduation speeches online to try to figure out what she wanted to say to the students, she decided to write a prayer for the students she called a teacher’s prayer for their students.
“Each one of you matters and each one of your lives affects so many others, remember this when you feel alone or unsure, life is not always a smooth path,” she said. “So remind yourself how much you matter to all of us present here today. As well as those who are unable to be with us.”
She also gave some real-world advice like “hold the door open” and “think carefully about the tattoos you get while young.”
Class remarks were given by Mercedes Cordero and Samantha Mead, who both shared their gratitude to their classmates and teachers for the time spent together.
“I think all the teachers I’ve had who saw me for who I was even when I didn’t feel like myself,” Cordero said. “It’s those teachers who’ve made you’ve made me feel like I could do anything I wanted to and to pursue anything for you — I am forever grateful.”