Four-hundred and nineteen seniors became alumni of Grand Haven High School on Thursday evening during the school’s 142nd annual commencement ceremony. Family, friends and educators filled Buccaneer Stadium to celebrate the Class of 2018.
In a new tradition, students entering the United States military were recognized. Logan Wierda and Promise Lattimore received a red, white and blue honor cord and a pin from the VFW Sgt. Alvin Jonker Post 2326 and American Legion Charles A. Conklin Post 28.
The 32 students who took part in the Early College Program and 53 distinguished academic leaders were also recognized.
See the photo gallery of the GHHS commencement.
GHHS Principal Tracy Wilson said the graduates started kindergarten in the fall of 2005, and they spent six years together as a class when they joined together in seventh grade.
Wilson noted that they were the third class to participate in the final walk-out where they visited their former schools and left GHHS as a collective group. She said they left an impact on the younger students who cheered them on over the years.
Some members of the Class of 2018 started Bucco’s First Mates and participated in Adams Acts, the Chalkboard Project, Call to Warriors and other programs.
Wilson encouraged the graduates to be in the moment, be life-long learners, set high goals and to spend their time in a meaningful way. Although graduation is an ending, she said it’s also a new beginning.
“I can’t wait to see how you’re going to change the world one Grand Haven graduate at a time,” Wilson told the graduating seniors.
Superintendent Andy Ingall told the graduates that while their K-12 education was ending, it's a time to look forward. He encouraged them to be persistent, never stop learning and to know they'll always have the support of Grand Haven.
Senior class speaker John Richardson spoke about one message that has stuck with him — “life-long learning.” Richardson, who was involved in Science Olympiad and tennis at GHHS, said he hopes his classmates take the message with them because they can always seek new ideas and learn.
Senior class president Megan Kostner said a message she heard during the baccalaureate ceremony — “be still” — will change the way she enters the next chapter of her life.
Kostner led a moment of silence for classmates Shelby Hardebeck and Carter Dyke, who died in 2012 and 2015, respectively. She said Hardebeck and Dyke were friends, a swimmer, soccer player, daughter and son.
Kostner encouraged her classmates to meet challenges straight on and with open hearts, because that's where they will find themselves. She also encouraged her classmates to strive for excellence in everything they do.
“Be still while being something,” she said.
Leigh Anne McCoy said she will most remember the memories she made over the years with her friends at GHHS. Although McCoy, 18, said she felt nervous about commencement, she looks forward to the future. She said the next step is getting her driver’s license and a job.
Kayline Plantenga, 17, said she will miss the teachers and seeing her friends every day.
In deciding what message to leave with his classmates through the keynote address, Noah Merriman said he considered a variety of topics. He said his simplest advice is to “never forget the importance of yourself.” He also encouraged his classmates to know their value and find their contentment.
Student Senate president Jack Plowman said that everyone is writing their own autobiography and it’s filled with supporting characters who have been classmates, teachers and family. The setting of their book for the past four years has been the high school, where they've learned academics and about themselves, he said. Now, the “plot thickens,” he said, as they have new blank pages and new settings.
As classmates begin their new chapters, Plowman encouraged his peers to fill the blank pages of their books with adventures, success and love.
“Because good books have great endings,” he said.