All of Neah Bay High grads heading to college

Neah Bay Class of 2011
Donna Barr photo

Neah Bay High School Class of 2011 graduates pose for family and friends at their graduation exercise held in the high school gym on Saturday afternoon, June 4.

With the determination of the old whaling chiefs, and the teamwork of their crews, the entire Neah Bay High School senior class has done what no other Neah Bay graduating class has ever done: every single member of the class will be going on to college.

Their voices breaking with pride, and already missing these intrepid young men and women, Dr. Ann Renker delivered the welcome message, and guest speaker Wilson Arnold shared memories of each member of the class. 

The class had participated in the state’s Gear-Up program, receiving one of five exemplary awards for the program in the state.  The program is designed to prepare the underprivileged for college.

The class motto was “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”  Friends and relatives wore their fabulous best to celebrate this very special event.

Ranker said, “One hundred percent of the seniors are graduating, which is awesome, and one hundred percent of the full-time seniors are going to collage or university, which is the first time this has ever happened at Neah Bay High School.” 

Under Wilson Arnold, the students toured universities and colleges all over the northwest, including Oregon. Evan Bowechop will be attending Stanford; Yale and Harvard also wanted him.

Thomas Burlingame, in the Retrospective Address, quipped, “We always felt like the guinea pig class.” They were the first to get the fossils.  They were the first Neah Bay class in the Gear-Up program.
The class received $126,300 in scholarship awards.  The speakers told stories illustrating the qualities of this class, including kindness, organization, respect, inspiration and athleticism.

Valedictorian Bowechop didn’t flinch from recognizing the difficulties of the past, as he recognized the accomplishments of this class.  He said, “No longer can we use being from Neah Bay as an excuse for a poor education.”

Referring to the victories of the men’s and women’s basketball teams this year, Bowechop said, “We’re proud to call ourselves Red Devils and we’re proud to be Makah.”

Several of the students wore mortar boards made of Makah cedar-strip weaving, adorned with “tassels” of broad eagle plumes. As First Nations people, the students have the right to possess and wear these rare feathers. 

James Jimmicum wore a “journey hat,” which resembles the peaked rain hats of Asia. Jimmicum was proud that it was the first hat his aunt had made.

Class member Faith Tyler is the reigning Makah Day’s Queen.

Erin Parker prepared a cut-paper applique for the background of the graduation platform, representing the Makah Thunderbird.  According to Parker, the body of the bird was done in a more northern style, while the head, with its three stripes and curling crest, was a typical Makah design.
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