The Hermiston High School Class of 2022 has been through a lot in the past four years – a nearly two-year pandemic, face masks as part of their daily wardrobe, distance learning, not to mention the craziest political climate of their young lives.
But on Thursday night, the 335 members of the graduating class put all that behind them during their graduation ceremony at the Toyota Center in Kennewick, Wash.
“This has been one of the most confusing times in history, yet you guys made it here tonight because you showed up when it counted,” said senior Ryker McDonald during his welcome address.
HHS Principal Tom Spoo told the crowd that this year’s graduating class featured not one, not two, but 20 valedictorians – all sporting a perfect 4.0 grade point average.
“My faith in the American youth today is stronger than ever,” said Spoo, noting that a record 226 HHS students completed Programs of Study and collectively qualified for more than $1.75 million in scholarships – $250,000 of that total coming from Hermiston organizations.
The COVID-19 pandemic was top of mind of many of the night’s speakers. Senior Connor Roberts recalled how students took off for spring break in 2020 and “never came back.” At least not for a long while. And when they did return to in-class instruction, everyone was masked up until earlier this year.
“Then we saw each other’s faces for the first time in almost two years,” he said.
In giving the class prophecy, Hunter McDonald reminded his classmates of all the obstacles they’ve overcome to get to this night.
“We’ve come this far, what can hold us back now?” he asked.
Dr. Tricia Mooney, Hermiston school superintendent, said, “The Class of 2022 holds a special place in my heart. You’ve changed and you’ve changed Hermiston High School. We are better because of you.”
And while the 335 students who graduated Thursday night will no longer be part of the HHS day-to-day life, Mooney said they left a lasting impression.
“We won’t be the same without you, but I know the world needs more of you,” she told them. “Remember, you are always a Bulldog and you can always come home.”