OTHELLO — A chill wind blew over Huskie Field Friday evening as the Othello High School class of 2018 received their diplomas.
It didn’t help that valedictorian Andrew Chen was forced to abandon his speech after only a minute by Othello High School Principal Alejandro Vergara.
“What does it mean to graduate?” Chen began his passionate and sometimes intense speech. “It’s supposed to prove we’re ready to take the next step.”
Chen talked about fear — about being afraid of change, about moving on, about facing the future. About taking that next step.
Defining fear as a sense that “where you are is better than where you will be because where you will be is unknown,” Chen noted that “some of us are scared to death about our lives.”
However, Chen also said fear can also be the source of courage and new possibilities.
“Your struggles can become your new strengths,” he said.
But, as he was about to get specific about “Othello being a tight-knit community” where people are encouraged to think the same, Vergara joined Chen on the podium and after a moment of quiet conversation between the two, Chen cut his speech short.
“I will respectfully step down,” he said. “This is just the fear manifesting itself.”
Neither the incident nor the unusually brisk early June cool stopped the families of over 300 graduates from gathering to cheer and applaud.
“I’m really happy and proud!” said Guiomar Azevedo, whose son Samuel was graduating. “He’s a great kid, and he’s done a lot. He’s an Eagle Scout, raised money for the food bank, helped clean the cemetery.
She said Samuel will be studying agricultural engineering at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, though he may come back to help run the family’s dairy near Othello.
“When we visited there last year, he just fell in love with the place,” Azevedo said. “It’s wonderful to see my son pursue his dream school.”
Of course, the Azevedos weren’t the only proud parents watching their children grasp their diplomas and begin their journeys in the wider world. As Superintendent Chris Hurst told those who gathered, this 13-year journey from kindergarten to high school is only the first of many milestones the newly minted high school graduates would face and conquer.
“Stay focused and disciplined and never give up,” Hurst said.
Charles H. Featherstone can be reached via email at email@example.com.