An unusual but heartwarming high school graduation

It was a senior year that no one could have predicted.

Schools across the world created new ways to celebrate graduating high schoolers as the outbreak of COVID-19 prohibited large gatherings. The Orcas Island School District invited family and friends to send “Grad-O-Grams,” which were printed on a keepsake page for the graduate. On May 31, the students came to campus to collect their graduation regalia and say goodbye to teachers. On June 9, they shared recordings of their senior project presentations followed by a Celebration of Success to announce scholarship recipients on June 12. The festivities culminated with a virtual commencement ceremony the following day, in-person diploma pick up at the school and a vehicle procession through Eastsound.

Links to all of the recordings are at

“While we are disappointed that we will not be able to celebrate the achievements of this group at our traditional in-person ceremony, we are excited to recognize them all in this way,” wrote Principal Kyle Freeman.

The 2020 Orcas Island High School seniors are: Corey Aragon, Avery Bishop Martin, Charles Brady III, Joseph Brewer, Celina Chapman, Kayla Chapman, Maximilian Clark-Matilla, Skylar Dalusio, Lilia Greening, Maya Heikkinen (valedictorian), Ariah Howard, Logan Joubert-Bousson, Daniel Keyes, Jaydon Krisch Derr, Maia Lewis-Shunk, Zoe Lewis-Shunk (salutatorian), Ewan Lister, Martha Lum, Ian Maier, Xavier Perez, Mario Pocasangre Rodriguez, Soeth Quintero, Kataya Rain, Manuel Rodríguez, Trevor Russell-Wareham, Richard Sanders, Arla Sutton (salutatorian), Camryn Thompson, Gabriel Thompson, Riley Turner, Jeiri Velazquez and Destiny Wright.

The virtual commencement ceremony ( includes speeches from staff and Heikkinen, Sutton and Zoe Lewis-Shunk; advice from teachers and community members; interviews with the students; the beloved photo slideshow; and a very special celebrity cameo. Freeman reached out to screenwriter and former school board member Janet Brownell and Orcas Center’s artistic and technical director Jake Perrine to create the hour and a half video. Videography was done by Erin and Emily Bennett of Orcas Video; Chris Sutton handled photography; and Kim Freeman, Janna Carter, Rebekah Hardee, Cindy Ballanger and Melissa Davis provided production assistance.

“Kyle and Janet handled the content side, figuring out what parts of the traditional graduation could and should be represented, and in what order,” said Perrine. “Janet coordinated all the community members’ videos for the commencement advice section and wove them together into a cohesive whole. I handled the OC and video side of things, coordinating how the parts could be shot safely and creatively.”