West Seattle, Washington
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
This week, Seattle Public Schools starts a series of community meetings to talk about the concept of “well-resourced schools.”
Our area’s school board director, Leslie Harris, wishes district managers would just describe the conversation as what it’s truly about: “Closures and consolidations.”
She made that comment Saturday afternoon during one of her periodic community-conversation availabilities, at which she was joined by another member of the board, Vivian Song Maritz (whose district stretches from downtown to Ballard), in the upstairs meeting room at Southwest Library. Only four community members showed up during the course of the hour and a half Harris was there, and none were there to talk about the looming “closures and consolidations” issue. But it was threaded through the discussion anyway.
Back on Thursday, after reader tips (206-293-6302 text or voice any time!), we showed you the first demolition at Alki Elementary, tearing down the old portable on the north side of the school. But the crew did not proceed immediately to the building. Seattle Public Schools explained that’s because the portable demolition is “under a separate permit, issued at the beginning of July.” The full permits are still awaiting the ruling of appeals filed against the zoning exceptions (“departures”) sought by the district. The hearing examiner who heard the case July 25th (WSB coverage here) had promised a ruling within 20 days, so that should happen in the next week or so, but SPS says other work can proceed in the meantime: “There also will be grading and shoring work on the site prior to completion of the departure process. None of the early construction activities involve any of the departures SPS is seeking for the project. Beginning them will not preclude implementing any conditions imposed on the project by the Hearing Examiner.” The new school’s height is no longer being appealed, so the issues that await a ruling have to do primarily with transportation, including the plan to build the new school with no offstreet parking. Meantime, when the 2023-1024 school year starts in a month, Alki classes will be at the former Schmitz Park Elementary.
Long before classes start for the new school year, tryouts and practices begin for fall high-school sports. West Seattle High School has sent its list of first practice/tryout dates for six fall sports:
First Day of Practice: August 16th
Wildcat Girls Volleyball
First Day of Tryouts: August 21st
Wildcat Girls Soccer
First Day of Tryouts: August 21st
Wildcat Girls & Boys Golf
First Day of Tryouts: August 21st
Wildcat Girls Swim & Dive
First Day of Practice: August 21st
Wildcat Girls & Boys Cross Country
First Day of Practice: August 21st–
Times and locations vary – all those details, along with other information about what to do and who to contact before tryouts/practices begin, can be found here.
Hate to bring it up, but Seattle Public Schools‘ summer break has just five weeks left. And next week, the district starts having community meetings to talk about the “well-resourced schools” concept that’s expected to lead to school closures. So in advance of that, and whatever other SPS issues are on your mind, our area’s School Board Director Leslie Harris is having a community meeting Saturday (August 5th). 2 pm, Southwest Library (9010 35th SW). She’s promising her legendary lasagna, too. Drop in with questions or just to listen in.
After a year as acting and then interim chancellor of the Seattle Colleges system, Dr. Rosie Rimando-Chareunsap is now its permanent chancellor. The system includes West Seattle-based South Seattle College (WSB sponsor), of which Dr. Rimando-Chareunsap served as president before taking on the role of running the system. She was one of three finalists after a nationwide search. From today’s announcement:
Dr. Rimando-Chareunsap has dedicated much of her career to Seattle Colleges. She stepped in as acting chancellor in July 2022 while maintaining her role as president of South Seattle College. She previously served as vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion for the district, and has held other important roles across the system for more than 20 years. She was recognized as a rising star in 2019 by the Aspen Institute, which selected her for its prestigious Presidential Fellows Program.
She holds a B.A. in English and Ethnic Studies from Washington State University (WSU), a Master of Public Administration from the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Policy and Governance, and a Doctorate of Education from WSU.
So what’s next for SSC leadership? Here’s how today’s announcement answers that question:
The search for a new interim and then permanent president at South Seattle College will commence shortly. Dr. Jean Hernandez, an educational leader with nearly four decades of experience, joined South Seattle College as interim president on Nov. 30, 2022, and served in the role through the academic year.
Along with SSC, the Seattle Colleges system includes North Seattle College and Seattle Central College, plus five specialty centers.
Thanks for the tips. Demolition has begun at Alki Elementary. First to go, the old portable on the north side of the school. The work is not affecting traffic on the adjacent streets (at least so far), though debris hauling might change that. This is proceeding though the city Hearing Examiner’s Office has yet to issue its decision on appeals of some of the project’s zoning exceptions; as we reported, the appeals were argued in a daylong hearing last week, and a ruling is promised by mid-August. The project will demolish and replace the main school building but not the gym, which it shares with adjacent Alki Community Center.
If you can break away during the day once a week, for one hour, you can help local students. Brad Ogura has done it himself and is getting the word out on behalf of Invest In Youth (for which he also serves as a board adviser):
Give back, support the local community, have fun by tutoring a student at Roxhill Elementary at E.C. Hughes, starting this fall! As a tutor, you’ll be paired with a 3rd, 4th, or 5th grader and work with that same student each Tuesday during the school year from 2:40 pm to 3:40 pm. This match allows you to see your impact on the student’s week-to-week progress.
No experience is necessary; just a commitment to help narrow achievement gaps and promote educational equity right here in West Seattle. The tutoring program is run by Invest in Youth, a nonprofit that has been working with Seattle Public School students for over 25 years, and after a brief absence from West Seattle the program is returning to Roxhill this fall.
Tutors typically work on math skills, reading fundamentals as well as being a friend and mentor to their student. Time is spent in the classroom after school ends with other student-tutor pairs, and a teacher as well as an Invest in Youth staff member is onsite and always available to help when needed.
Tutoring is offered at no cost to families or schools and Invest in Youth is actively recruiting volunteer tutors to sign up now. Both tutors and students consistently report that the program is a highlight of their week and an extremely rewarding experience.
Helpful Links: About Invest in Youth, FAQs, all about tutoring including an online signup form.
Contact Cherrise (CSmith@investinyouth.org) if you have questions.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
His arrival at the independent K-5 school (a WSB sponsor) on the north edge of the West Seattle Junction is an occasion for Tilden to “reintroduce our community to our school,” as Kristie Berg of Tilden’s board explains, noting that Tilden still has some openings for this fall. Nelson is the first permanent head of school for Tilden since founder Whitney Tjerandsen retired two years ago. “We have been searching for the right successor to Whitney – we think Jorge is a great fit and has her same energy and spirit.”
We sat down with both of them to talk about Tilden’s “reintroduction,” which also includes a new mascot named after the founder – an owl called Wise Whitney.
Berg is most excited about the school’s new leader. Dr. Nelson describes himself as a “third-generation educator” whose educational career began in 1985 (coincidentally, the year Tilden was founded). He has been a teacher and administrator at schools not only on both coasts of the U.S. but also in Asia, Europe, the South Pacific, and Latin America. He speaks Spanish, which Tilden is adding to the curriculum.
This is a return to western Washington for Nelson, who has studied (his first degree was from Evergreen State College) and worked (Shelton High School) in the region, in addition to his many other stops around the nation and world. “I found in Tilden what I was looking for,” he says. “I have seen different systems around the world and when I came to Tilden, I saw a system I believe is relevant, kind, progressive … focused on individual children more than testing or grades – that’s what parents want; Tilden is about the child, Tilden has the answer.”
What happened during the pandemic brought children’s social and emotional needs back into the spotlight, and Nelson says Tilden’s philosophy centers that. “They followed Whitney’s dream of what’s right for kids … Every child has a voice. I’ve seen this at very few schools. (Students) are excited to be here. They’re happy, they work hard, they’re respectful.” He adds, “Tilden has not followed a path of programmatic corporate education.”
And yet, “it’s academically rigorous,” adds Berg, who has two Tilden graduates in the family, one of which is college-age now and is heading to Vassar.
The graduates are actually sad to go, Nelson noticed at the end of the school year (he had arrived a few weeks earlier): “The fifth graders actually needed boxes of Kleenex, I’ve never seen that level of angst, that they’re leaving a school.” Small class sizes mean they get to know their schoolmates well. Berg recalls, “My kids had a class of 16 kids, and they knew everyone’s birthday.”
At that point, we recalled a Tilden tradition – the school is held open on “snow days” for anyone who can get there safely. Nelson arrived too late in the year to see an example of that, but he was impressed by another Tilden tradition – the writing program in which all students write a story a week, 40 over the course of the school year, on the same topic. The work is posted in the hallways. Nelson says the legend is that founder Whitney would tell the students they couldn’t throw the resulting compilations away until they were 44.
But they’re not just carrying on the hallmarks of the past. They’re shaping the future with plans for improvements. For example, Nelson says, “The board has asked me to bring oboard a learning-support consultant. Some students have neurodiversity issues; we will be looking at multiple levels of support – academic enhancements, positive behavior reinforcement, social/emotional, so every kid is getting what they need – even if they’re having a bad day.” Outside the school, they’re planning a mural for the alley wall behind the building they share with the First Lutheran Church of West Seattle (with whom they otherwise are unaffiliated – Tilden is a secular independent school).
And they’re reaching out further than before to tell Tilden’s story and listen to what community members are looking for in a school. One recent example – Tilden joined other local schools in taking turns managing the Kids’ Zone at West Seattle Summer Fest; Nelson stopped by our nearby festival table in the Info Booth and said he was having a great time talking with kids and their families.
As with some other schools, Tilden incorporates adult volunteers as part of its learning community. “It really is a relevant school,” beams Nelson.
If you’re interested in applying for next school year, you can go here to find out about arranging a tour as your first step toward finding out more.
“We’re here to serve!” Nelson concludes.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Double the students, double the staff, no on-site parking.
That component of the Alki Elementary School rebuild is at the heart of an appeal fight that was argued Tuesday before a city hearing examiner.
The appellants, city and district reps, and other witnesses all completed their testimony in one day, though up to three were set aside for the hearing. As we reported Monday, one appeal was withdrawn after a settlement with Seattle Public Schools, and Tuesday it was revealed that took the new school’s height off the list of issues being challenged. The project’s architect said they had managed to lower the height of a rooftop equipment “penthouse” by three feet.
After Tuesday’s seven-hour hearing, assistant hearing examiner Kathleen Drummond said she would issue a written ruling within 20 days. Before we get into what was presented to her Tuesday, here’s the backstory:
12:24 PM: The Alki Elementary building is fenced and awaiting demolition. A hearing that could affect what replaces it is scheduled for this week. As we’ve reported, nearby residents have appealed the city’s decision to grant nine zoning “departures” (exceptions) for the project, including extra height and no on-site parking. The appeal will be heard by the city Hearing Examiner starting tomorrow, with proceedings potentially lasting three days; the examiner’s decision generally is issued days or weeks later. We learned while checking the online files that one of the appellants has settled with Seattle Public Schools, and another appellant’s case was dismissed for not participating in pre-hearing logistics discussions, but four other appeals are still proceeding as a consolidated case.
4:21 PM: One of the appellants, Shauna Causey, is circulating an online petition/survey regarding the parking issue. If you click “yes” on this page – supporting the addition of some parking – you’ll be taken to a second page asking “how much?”.
ADDED TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Up to three days were set aside on the Hearing Examiner’s schedule for the case, but it wrapped up in one day, a short time ago. We monitored the entire day of testimony and will publish a report within a few hours; no decision yet – the assistant hearing examiner who presided said she’ll issue a ruling in a few weeks.
As reported here earlier this month, Seattle Public Schools will have community meetings around the city next month to talk about a plan that could lead to school closures/consolidations starting as soon as fall 2024. They promised to announce the meeting dates/locations this week, and have just done so. From the announcement:
During these meetings, senior leaders will connect with our community to envision what a well-resourced school looks like. SPS staff will share a presentation, respond to questions, and facilitate group discussion.
Your feedback will help guide future district planning. This fall, we will review your feedback and develop an inclusive and equitable plan.
SPS has the opportunity to reimagine a system of well-resourced schools that is safe and equitable. Our goal is to offer students the support, the programs and resources, and the inspiration they need to succeed in the neighborhoods where they live.
(Meeting dates/times of West Seattle relevance:)
Southwest Region: Madison Middle School commons/lunchroom, Thursday, Aug. 10, 6 p.m.
Location: 3429 45th Ave. SW
Online: Teams Meeting, Tuesday, Aug. 29, 5:30 p.m.
Translation and interpretation services will be provided at each meeting based on request. American Sign Language (ASL), Amharic, Cantonese, Somali, Spanish, and Vietnamese interpreters will be available. After the online meeting, a recording will be posted to the district website. We hope you can join us! Take a moment to RSVP or send us your questions. Complete the RSVP to request accommodation for the meetings by Monday, July 31.
While we await responses from SDOT among others regarding the status of more traffic calming on Alki in the wake of last night’s high-speed crash, we have news of what’s ahead for two more school zones. We received this information after our inquiry last week about speed humps/cushions coming to the Chief Sealth International High School/Denny International Middle School area (here’s that story). While researching that inquiry for us, SDOT spokesperson Ethan Bergerson also found, and told us about, plans for new stop signs by Pathfinder K-8 and new speed cushions by Genesee Hill Elementary – here are maps:
These will be installed before summer’s out; SDOT says mailers have been sent to nearby residents, and they’ll see signage before installation: “Neighbors should look for ‘no parking’ signs at least 3 days before construction, which usually takes 1 day to add stop signs or 2 days to add speed cushions.” (Again, this info came in after a request days before the Alki crash, so it’s not related, and we’ll have that followup whenever the response comes in.)
When Seattle Public Schools started hinting at school closures/consolidations earlier this year, amid a budget crunch, the district promised to start talking with the community this summer. That’ll happen in August, SPS now says. The district is planning five regional in-person meetings August 8-15 plus an online all-district meeting at 5:30 pm Tuesday, August 29. They describe these meetings as aimed at “developing a shared understanding of what resources, programs, services, and learning experiences make up a well-resourced school” (theoretically closures/consolidations would be intended to enable the remaining schools are “well-resourced”). SPS says it will announce specific dates/locations for the regional meetings next week. Whatever changes are decided, the district says, they won’t kick in before the 2024-2025 school year.
A year has passed since Seattle Lutheran High School ceased operations at 4100 SW Genesee at the north end of The Junction. Now Hope Lutheran – headquartered a short distance south – has announced it’s bought the 2/3-acre former SLHS campus. Here’s the announcement:
Hope Lutheran Church and School has finalized the purchase of the former Seattle Lutheran High School property, with plans to launch a new school campus called “Hope North” to serve area families and the surrounding community who are looking at middle school options for their students.
Hope North will initially be a middle-school expansion in Fall 2024, after necessary building improvements are made.
Hope Lutheran School has operated for more than 60 years at its original campus at 42nd Ave SW and Oregon St SW, serving students in preschool through 8th grade. The former Seattle Lutheran High School (SLHS) property is located one block north at 41st Ave SW and Genesee St SW.
SLHS had operated at the location from 1978 until 2022, when the Seattle Lutheran Board of Directors voted to close the school at the end of the 2021-2022 academic year. Throughout the existence of SLHS, neighboring Hope Lutheran served as a steadfast supporter and partner in the school’s mission, while utilizing the SLHS gym, parking lot and facilities in a mutually beneficial way.
“This is a huge step of faith for our Hope community,” said Hope Lutheran Senior Pastor Peter Mueller. “This purchase will be a source of great blessing to many people by securing new space in which to pursue the mission God has entrusted to us.”
The SLHS property was owned by the Lutheran High School Association of Washington, which voted in late November 2022 to sell the building and nearby parking lot to Hope. The congregation of Hope Lutheran then unanimously approved the agreement, and the sale was finalized this past week.
Kristen Okabayashi, who is beginning her 14th year as principal at Hope Lutheran School, said the rare chance to purchase a full-sized gymnasium, 14 classrooms and a parking lot is “a life-changing opportunity” for Hope School.
Okabayashi said that in recent years, both SLHS and West Seattle Christian Church “have been generous in sharing gym space to support Hope’s robust PE and athletic programs.” She added that moving Hope’s middle school to the north campus “gives our middle school students the chance to enjoy expanded educational offerings, explore their interests and have a campus of their own,” while also providing space to “expand our well-loved preschool to add multiple classrooms and meet the growing needs of the community around us.”
Jason Grotelueschen, chair of the Hope Lutheran Board of Directors, said that as the school ministry grows, Hope’s leaders will take time to assess the feasibility of adding additional grades and classes in the future, which may include high school.
“It’s exciting to be at this point,” Grotelueschen said, “and we have a lot of great work still to be done.” Grotelueschen said the Hope board and SLHS board have worked closely together, particularly for the past three years, to establish a solid plan for the future.
Patrick Gehring, president of the SLHS board, said that the history of SLHS and its impact on alumni and the surrounding community have left a strong legacy to build on. “Such a special place,” Gehring said. “I can’t wait to see it once again filled with kids.”
Gehring added that, as part of the agreement to sell the former SLHS property to Hope, a portion of the proceeds will help fund an initial endowment for the Lutheran Elementary Schools Tournament (LEST), to help ensure its longevity and success. LEST is an annual academic and athletic tournament for Lutheran schools in the Pacific Northwest, hosted at Pacific Lutheran University in February.
Hope Lutheran has kicked off a major capital campaign called Hope North: Building for the Next Generation to raise funds for this new mission opportunity. Proceeds from the campaign will serve to reduce the amount of debt incurred for the purchase and to fund crucial improvements to the building and property. For more information and to get involved, please visit our campaign’s webpage.
Sally Heit, Admissions Director at Hope Lutheran School, said that tours and open houses will be held throughout Fall of 2023 at Hope North and the main campus, and applications for Fall 2024 will be accepted during this time. To learn more about Hope North or to schedule a tour, please visit our webpage.
“This is an incredible opportunity for middle students in West Seattle,” Heit said, “and I’m looking forward to seeing where the journey takes us.”
We asked a few followup questions – including whether the entire property will be used for the school expansion. Heit says yes. Also, in case you’re wondering, the purchase does include the 41st/Genesee parking lot that’s “diagonal from the campus.” (added) Purchase price: $1,626,876.
Whether they’re coming back next year or moving up, Genesee Hill Elementary School students finished their school year with a gift for next year and beyond. The mural you see above, painted by students led by Urban ArtWorks, has replaced this drab wall:
The costs were covered by Genesee Hill PTA fundraising; Urban ArtWorks was chosen from four local artists who bid on the project. The planning process began in March, in art workshops with all 530+ GHES students. Their ideas were consolidated into a design in April. Teaching artist Lis Rafailedes, below with GHES principal Liz Dunn, was there working with the young artists when we visited on Monday:
The students painted the mural over multiple days this month, concluding with kindergarteners:
You can see the mural from SW Genesee, on the south side of the campus.
A similar project resulted in a mural at Lafayette Elementary four years ago.
Thanks to Angelica Mendoza-De Lorenzo at Denny International Middle School for the report and photo:
As the 2022-2023 school year comes to an end, we say goodbye to two amazing staff members at Denny. Mr. Bolma has been a Counselor at Denny Middle School for 20 years and 40 years as an educator. His dedication to our students and service to our school has not gone without recognition , always willing to support and guide students in need.
Ms. Clausen is saying goodbye to the Denny Community after 33 yrs of working with us. She began the Proyecto Saber program at Denny and later moved on to be the leader in our Dual Language Program. Her passion and dedication to her school community is inspiring! Her many transformational programs at Denny are Ms. Clausen’s legacy and we are committed to continue: Summer Enrichment programs, La Posada in December, and Positive Discipline workshops for parents. Ms. Clausen has a special place in her heart for the Latino community and culture, having helped and guide immigrant students through the education system for many years.
We had a staff celebration on Wednesday followed by a surprise mariachi performance by Mariachi Real Seattle today as we wish the very best to both retirees.
With the Seattle Public Schools year ending this afternoon, it’s a particularly memorable last day of school at Alki Elementary – their century-old building is set for demolition and replacement. Julie sent the photo, explaining that it was taken by drone last Friday, with students and staff in their Alki-A-Thon shirts for the PTA-fundraiser walkathon held that day, using the opportunity to get one last look at the old building. (The exact demolition date is pending, as the project’s permits are awaiting the outcome of appeals filed against the zoning exceptions – “departures” – the district needs to build a taller school with an illuminated sign and no on-site vehicle parking; a late July hearing is scheduled.) Alki classes will be held for the next two years at the former Schmitz Park Elementary, which has hosted West Seattle Elementary for these past two years while that school’s building was being expanded.
Room 12 at Lafayette Elementary has a request for you: Help them decide which charity should receive the $50 left in their classroom fund. Their teacher, Chelsea Gabzdyl, explained that she gave the students a writing project, to convince her who shold get the money, and, “One idea I had is for their writing pieces to be published on the West Seattle Blog so we can raise even more money and give to many different organizations.” She sent us 12 students’ pitches. If you can spare a few minutes, read them, comment with your thoughts on which case is the most compelling, maybe even consider donating yourself. Here are the students’ writeups, as sent by their teacher:
I have Native Americans in my family so I love animals. Help the wildlife by donating money to the Wildlife Conservation Society. Help the animals that need help because of predators. People should not kill animals for fun. Help them please! Donate money to the Wildlife Conservation Society. Help the Wildlife Conservation Society. And more predators the more trees! How long does it take for a sloth to digest its food? One week!
I think we should do Saint Jude because it helps people like some people are paralyzed. That means: people can’t move a specific part in their body. That’s not good at all. Others have cancer and that’s not good ether because some kids die and we don’t want that to happen at all. If we give the money to Saint Jude because kids all over the world will know they are safe and happy.
Would you like to help people in need of food because I would and it makes me happy to see people help people. People should have food and water. People also shouldn’t suffer. People shouldn’t starve. I get mad when I see that people are not caring about people.
Hi! Do you like animals? Then read on! In my opinion, the money should go to the Wildlife Conservation Society because I think animals should be healthy and safe. First of all they are good for the environment. Secondly, animals are nice! Lastly, they are adorable!!! That’s why I believe that the money should go to the wildlife conservation society!
If you like animals then keep reading! I think the Wildlife Conservation Society should get the money because we will all have food, we can see cute animals, and the world will be beautiful.
We should give the money to the Ronald McDonald House because it can help families. Secondly, they can make money to help families. Last, families take care of babies and if you don’t take care of babies they won’t have a home.
I think animals are very special and I want to have more experiences with animals. If you are an animal lover like me keep reading. Help wildlife by donating money to the Wildlife Conservation Society. Help the animals that need help! Mostly the animals that are hurt! Start loving them and stop hating them. People should not kill animals for fun because it is so rude! Would you want that? I wouldn’t. Help them please don’t kill! They don’t deserve it and you wouldn’t either. Animals should live in peace like we want to stop killing and start caring!
I think we need more animals because we can see new things. I think the Wildlife Conservation Society should get the money because more animals make more food. More animals make more fertilizer and more trees. More trees make more fresh air. Now you see why I feel that we need more animals.
I think we should give the money to all 10 charities because then all 10 of them get money and more things will be helped because of us. Secondly all 10 charities will be able to help things that otherwise would not. No one would be upset that the money went to the place they did not want because it would go to all 10 charities. That’s why I think we should give the money to all 10 charities.
Do you love animals? In my opinion, the money should be donated to the Wildlife Conservation Society for these reasons. The bees are animals they help trees and the trees help us breathe. If there are more animals there will be more food. We love animals and we can hunt if there are more animals to have a balance. When we help it makes us happy. We can do more science! Our Earth will grow! And to sum it up, I love animals.
My name is Trafford and this is my opinion about helping people have food. In my opinion, Share Our Strength is a good choice. First of all, my mom had childhood hunger. It can happen in many ways. Kids are not as resilient as adults and are more vulnerable. That’s why I chose share our strength.
I think that the money should go to KaBOOM! because they build the playgrounds. Now you can see why Kaboom should get the money.
(We don’t have the list of all 10 charities they’re considering but will add it if and when we get it.)
ADDED 9:30 AM THURSDAY: First, teacher Chelsea just sent two more students’ pitches:
Do you like the Seattle Animal Shelter? Well I’m gonna make you like it even more! First of all, if you donate to the Seattle Animal Shelter your donation goes directly to helping staff and volunteers perform life-saving work. Also, if you donate it helps prevent animal homelessness. Lastly, if you donate it helps fix animal cruelty so that’s why we should spend our money on the Seattle Animal Shelter.
Charlee’s opinion (in support of Share Our Strength):
My opinion is to give anything people need especially homeless people. So we can Share Our Strength and we can make a better world when we come together we can help each other get more food and water and medicine. It makes me sad and mad when I see people in need but nobody is helping them.
Second, she says the students have added to the fund – $152 more from “what kids have saved up and brought in themselves!”
As the sun set Tuesday night, the curtain rose on the next chapter of life for the 300+ Class of 2023 graduates from Chief Sealth International High School. Their compact commencement ceremony ended the night at Memorial Stadium downtown, with unique touches, like CSIHS musicians performing the “Pomp and Circumstance” entry music live, as well as a second song, Encanto, directed by Joey Roberts:
Student speaker Fatima Garnica Escamilla exulted, “We did it – we all accomplished one of the first major milestones of our lives.” She shared wisdom from her parents, that life is like a long train ride – “some people will get on and stay with you to the end … some will get off at an earlier stop and that’s OK.”
She also noted that many of the class members had immigrant parents and/or came from underrepresented communities. Many cultures got proud nods, on the field and in the stands:
Staff speaker Dijana Raco was among those who brought up the unprecedented disruption of COVID-19 – “it wasn’t easy to have your freshman year disrupted so suddenly by a global pandemic.” She urged the new grads to make big plans for themselves – “and be prepared for those plans to not happen”:
Chief Sealth principal Ray Morales offered advice too – express gratitude, “focus on what brings you joy,” stay humble, and make healthy decisions.
He presented the class to school-board director Leslie Harris, who was participating in her last local graduation, as she’s leaving office at year’s end. “Go, Hawks!” was her sendoff for them.
P.S. As noted in our coverage of the night’s first ceremony, for West Seattle High School, the district is recording all of this year’s graduations and publishing the video quickly, so here’s the link for the full multi-camera video of the CSIHS commencement.
West Seattle has more than 600 brand-new high-school graduates tonight, after back-to-back ceremonies at Memorial Stadium downtown. The night began with West Seattle High School, which packed its hour-and-a-half ceremony with more speakers and more music. After principal Brian Vance‘s welcome, ASB president Ami Doukourai spoke, describing graduation as “the moment that symbolizes the beginning of the rest of our lives.” She spoke of challenges, and had to overcome one in the moment, as a military helicopter inexplicably buzzed the field three times during her speech. She was followed by Kathryn Hooper and Makenzie Jensen, who spoke of how the class had to deal with heart-wrenching loss, wearing blue cords to honor four classmates who died, and leading a moment of silence in their memory “and any other loved ones who couldn’t be here today.”
The featured staff speaker, teacher Kira Hopkins, addressed the graduates as writers. She offered five points of advice, including “consider your context,” noting that they were just partway through their freshman year when the pandemic hit, and that they’ve also dealt with crises including political turmoil, climate change, and racial injustice – “you have come through a lot.” Her other points included “stay curious” and make plans but “leave room for the magic of the moment.”
Featured student speaker Elliott Burdett also mentioned the pandemic, saying “the universe threw a cosmic wrench” in his class’s freshman year, while in the next breath he acknowledged that “talking about COVID is cringe.” Ebulliently, he noted that “we really have no idea what the future who has in store for us – anything can happen at any moment.” Don’t miss the possibilities he lists:
Then it was time for a song from the acclaimed band THEM, whose members include two of tonight’s grads as well as a 2020 WSHS alum, “so this is her real graduation”:
The class’s valedictorians Sophia Butler and Cece Pyfer offered reflection and gratitude:
Then principal Vance led one last “W-E-S-T-S-I-D-E” countdown, and offered his own three points of advice: Make good choices, “bring your ‘A game’,” and express gratitude. Then our area’s school-board director Leslie Harris accepted the class and told them “it’s legal – you’re graduates!” The reading of names, with proud cheering from the stands, followed, as did a few final words from tassel-turning leader Lachlan Swanson, who warned that life is “pretty damn scary” but “you have to believe it’ll work out.”
Another chance to support student performers is just hours away. The Louisa Boren STEM K-8 Drama Club is presenting Roald Dahl‘s “Matilda,” in the musical’s junior edition, one performance only, free!
It’s at 2 pm tomorrow (Saturday) in the school gym at 5950 Delridge Way SW. The announcement notes that Matilda “tells the story of an extraordinary girl who, armed with a vivid imagination and a sharp mind, dares to take a stand and change her own destiny.” Doors open at 1:30 pm and though there’s no admission charge, they’ll be selling concessions to raise money for the Drama Club, and you can also donate via PayPal. Tomorrow’s show will run about an hour.
Until 6:30 pm at West Seattle High School, some of WSHS’s talented student musicians are rocking a fundraiser for the West Seattle Food Bank. It’s the WSHS Earth Club‘s project, led by Lizzy Greene and Henry Walum.
Other bands on the slate included THEM, The Potholes, Princess Pulpit, and Pieces of Lisa. Sorry we got late word of this but if you can’t get to the school before 6:30, you can donate directly to WSFB any time here.
ADDED: Here’s a bit of Service With A Smile, performing during our visit:
(SSC photo: A Bachelor of Applied Science graduate poses with Seattle Colleges Interim Chancellor (former SSC President) Rosie Rimando-Chareunsap as Board of Trustees Vice Chair Rosa Peralta looks on)
Graduation time! The newest grads from South Seattle College (WSB sponsor) celebrated their achievements during a three-college ceremony last night – here’s the story from SSC:
South Seattle College celebrated the Class of 2023 on the evening of June 22 with a commencement ceremony at T-Mobile Park. The ceremony brought together graduates from South Seattle College, Seattle Central College, and North Seattle College – all part of the Seattle Colleges District.
720 graduates from SSC were recognized for their achievement of earning a degree or certificate.
“Graduates, tonight we celebrate your story,” SSC Interim President Dr. Jean Hernandez said at the event. “It’s one you will share with family and friends for decades to come. It is a story of pushing through in life, work and education during a time that still brings economic and social challenges. The burden of the past three years has been massive and yet here you stand strong: a college graduate more than ready to write your next chapter and make your mark.”
Ana Chamale was SSC’s 2023 graduation speaker. She served as student government president, graduated with an associate transfer degree, and will be attending New York University in the fall to pursue a bachelor’s degree in political science.
“I am a proud Guatemalan-Mexican-American,” Chamale said. “Many of us here today are not only representing ourselves, but our parents, our children, our siblings and our family back home. We are here, and we have made it.”
Speaking directly to her family members in Guatemala who were able to watch on livestream, Chamale said, “Estoy hoy aquí representándote, no te he olvidado ni a ti ni a tus palabras de aliento. Cuando mis estudios se pusieron difíciles o parecían abrumadores, siempre pensé en ti y en cómo algún día estaré en un taburete con pedales como este para darte las gracias y lo hicimos.” (English translation: “I am here today representing you. I have not forgotten you or your words of encouragement. When my studies got difficult or seemed overwhelming, I always thought of you and how one day I’ll be on a pedestal like this to say thank you and we did it”).
Of the awards South Seattle College conferred this year:
-374 graduates earned associate transfer degrees that enable them to transfer to four-year colleges and universities in Washington and beyond to complete their bachelor’s degrees.
-228 graduates earned career training associate of science degrees and certificates that prepare them to enter the workforce immediately.
-93 graduates earned high school diplomas or equivalents, allowing them to take a significant step toward future education and employment opportunities.
-25 graduates earned Bachelor of Applied Science degrees, taking their careers to the next level and increasing their earning potential.
SSC is headquartered on West Seattle’s Puget Ridge, with a satellite campus in Georgetown. Registration is open now for summer-quarter classes, which start June 26, and fall-quarter classes, which start September 26.