White River 2004

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Grads reminded that 'attitude is everything' during June 15 ceremonies at amphitheater

By Brenda Sexton

The Courier-Herald

"We are the authors of our own story," was the motto for the White River High School 2004 graduating class.

In a picture-perfect commencement ceremony June 15 at the White River Amphitheatre between Enumclaw and Auburn, the Class of 2004 wrote another chapter in the book of life.

Shielding their eyes from the bright, setting sun - or perhaps because their futures are so bright - graduates sailed through a night filled with emotion, honors, optimism and, thanks to the new facility, air-flow and elbow room.

A teary-eyed Principal Keith Banks bid farewell to the high school. Banks, who has been principal at the school for 14 years and was athletic director and a teacher for much longer, moves to the district office to replace retiring human resources director Michael Fuller.

Banks left graduates with two thoughts - the first about attitude and the second about hard work. He said one ingredient that will assure success is attitude. He reminded students how staff's Friday T-shirts read "Attitude is Everything," and read an excerpt by Charles Swindoll titled "Attitude."

Class speaker Abbie Pritchard walked her classmates down memory lane with all the firsts they experienced through the years, including becoming the first class to graduate from the new high school and the first to leave the tradition of commencement ceremonies at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, opting instead for the proximity and openness of the White River Amphitheatre.

Valedictorians Meagan Gallagher, Krissy Hodel and Lauren Thrasher reminded students to find their passion. They reminded students it's never to late to follow dreams, and if life is not heading in the right direction, change it.

Nine students - Jae Bellevue, Gallagher, Hodel, Sara-Rebecca Morrow Miller, Sarah Richardson, Rebecca Sheppard, Jamie Sylvester, Thrasher and Eric Woodcock - were awarded valedictorian honors.

Nick Whitaker was honored as salutatorian.

This year's Staff Inspiration Award, which has a scholarship attached that teachers raise the money for each year, went to brothers Ismael and Moises Cardenas. Four years ago the pair entered White River High unable to speak English. Through the years, they managed to balance work and school, and through their hard work and dedication were graduating with their class.

White River teacher Trena Page, who presented the award, called the twosome "inspirational."

"It's an award we give to a student who inspires us to do our best teaching," said Page, who was also honored earlier in the program. She is retiring after 30 years, all spent at White River High.

Page also took time to remember White River teacher Diane Burton, who was instrumental in the start of the Staff Inspiration Award. Burton lost a battle with cancer earlier in the year.

It was an evening filled with many honors.

Banks announced the 27 students who were listed in the academic Top 10; 73 students who passed all four sections of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) test; five - Benjamin Cuyle, Jess Flarity, Lisa Lindsay, Pritchard and Woodcock - who completed requirements for an Associate of Arts degree from a community college; one, Woodcock, in addition to an AA degree also earned an associate of science degree; two, Kayla Johnston and Rachel Tost, earned cosmetology certificates; and 10 are entering the military including twin sisters Brianne and Brittney Ackerson.

Earlier in the month, scholarship awards were handed out to the total of $331,739.40. The spare change comes from the exchange rate for Canadian currency; wrestler Paul Klein plans to attend Simon Fraser University in British Columbia.

Students earning renewable rewards worth more than $10,000 were: Ron Edwards, who earned a $20,000 renewable performing arts scholarship to attend the University of Hartford; Brittany Gotschall, who earned a $12,000 renewable scholarship to the University of Portland; Hodel, who earned a $17,000 renewable presidential scholarship to attend Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Massachusetts), and Whitaker, who won a $10,740 annual scholarship to Gonzaga University.

Before the big, tassle-turning finale, much to the delight of the students and crowd, while all other high schools in the area played recordings of Blaine Larsen's "In My High School," White River got the real thing as the Nashville-bound recording artist performed on the amphitheater stage to close out the ceremony.

Brenda Sexton can be reached at

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