(Photos by Joseph Accuardi-Gilliam, Christine Eagon, Charlie Fornia, Chris Olsen, Steve Webb and VPS communications staff )

The cheering was thunderous as seniors from Columbia River High School paraded down the halls of Eisenhower. Dressed in their robes and regalia, the soon-to-be graduates waved and high-fived elementary students lining the halls.

It was the school’s inaugural graduate walk, a new tradition also adopted by several other Vancouver high schools. Seniors like Jeremy Goudge hoped the event would be a visual reminder of what the elementary students are working toward:

“One day I want to see all the kids that we saw in Columbia River, graduating, [or] from Skyview, [or from] anywhere, just like us.”

Fifth-grader Lauren Roberts agreed that the walk made an impression:

“It was definitely very inspiring to see them with all the cords and medals. That could someday be me.”

It also was a kind of homecoming for the graduates who attended Eisenhower. Jeremy reconnected with Principal Jennifer Blechschmidt, his first-grade teacher at Minnehaha Elementary.

“I really remembered her a lot and it was great to see her as principal, too.”

For him back then, high school graduation seemed like little more than a dream:

“I didn’t even think I was going to make it, to be honest. Most of my family had a hard time through high school, so it’s great to see myself be able to accomplish it on time.”

The grad walk also solidified the accomplishment for their former teachers and mentors. Here’s Jennifer Blechschmidt:

“I think our whole staff was really excited to see the kids that have gone through our building come back, celebrate their successes, just knowing that they were part of their journey in getting them to the finish line.”

Now that those seniors have crossed the finish line, do they feel prepared for their future? In a recent survey, more than 90 percent said that they feel ready to take the next step, whether it’s the military, work, trade school, college or something else.

I consider that a testament to the hard work—and the heart work—of my colleagues. After all, the entire VPS staff has played important roles in getting our students to commencement.

I am so proud of our graduates. I’m also deeply grateful for the singular efforts of everyone who works in this district, one of the finest in the nation. To them, I say thank you for everything that you do.

Enjoy your summer and take care!

Image: Steve's signature