After five years of commitment, hard work and new experiences, 20 Willamette Academy seniors received their certificates of completion and graduation medallions during a special ceremony in Hudson Hall last Friday.
The program connected alumni with current students — including Allison Navarro, an alumna from the academy’s first graduating class in 2007, and Naohmi Cruz, a graduating senior from South Salem High School.
During an address to her peers, Cruz — who will attend Willamette University next year — talked about what brought her to the academy and how her relationships strengthened through the experience.
“From that first moment meeting each other we have grown from being strangers to becoming a family,” Cruz said. “I want my fellow graduates to know that I will always be there for them.”
Emily Drew, associate professor of sociology at Willamette, who also served as interim director of the academy last summer, delivered the keynote address. In her remarks, Drew congratulated the class members on their hard work and dedication and offered words of advice to both students and parents on making the transition to college.
“Talk to your professors, challenge your campuses and help your peers think about complex themes,” Drew said. “Two of the most sustaining things about your college experience should be building community and owning your education.”
A slideshow of photos set to music chronicled the events of the past five summers, including camps, trips to the coast, college visits and other opportunities to expand learning outside the classroom. The graduates laughed and smiled at each other as they reflected back on their experiences and realized how much they had grown and changed.
In concluding the ceremony, Emilio Solano, executive director of the academy, reminded graduates that no matter where their lives take them, they will always be part of this community.
“Know that you are always welcome here,” Solano said. “You are what makes this place great and we expect you to keep in touch with us.”