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More than 400 West Linn High School Lions walked across the stage Tuesday night

PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Parker Martin gives a thumbs up during West Linn High School's graduation June 4.
"Know what sparks the light in you. Then use that light to illuminate the world." This quote by Oprah Winfrey was the motto for the West Linn High School Class of 2019.

Student Body President Ashley Hayter chose that quote to represent the graduating class last November and she believes the light Winfrey refers to is joy.

"In my heart I truly believe that together, Class of 2019, we have the power, the brains, the heart, the passion and the soul to one day change the world for the better," she said. "Find your light and share it."

At the Chiles Center on the University of Portland campus June 4, 427 lights waited to spark.

Haidar Alzubaidi and his family never thought the day would come when he would walk across the stage.

"I feel cathartic," he said. "I was born in Iraq so to be able to graduate from here in America in high school and have my whole future ahead of me, is something incredible."

West Linn High School Graduation 2019Andrew Bauchwitz's mother, Pilar Lashley, sat proudly in the audience.

"He had a kind of a hard time, but after putting all his effort and the school really, really supported him, it means the world to me," Lashley said. "Like I say to my son, 'This is a big milestone.' It's the beginning of a great life and that's all I can say. I see a bright future in front of him."

Before tassels were turned, West Linn-Wilsonville Superintendent Kathy Ludwig made an analogy between The Oregon Trail computer game and the students' trek into the real world.

PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE  - West Linn High Principal Greg Neuman finds a way to put on another Hawaiian lei during commencement."The participants did learn about the historic trail in an engaging way but they also learned important dispositions and mindsets that we could apply to the real world," Ludwig said. "For example, in the game you're presented with realistic roadblocks or challenges and you must decide what to do next to make it safely to your destination. Similarly in our real world, we are presented with challenges that require critical thinking, trial and error, adaptability and resilience. ... Today you may not die of dysentery but pushing ahead so fast and furious in life does have its consequences. In the real world, decisions in life have implications and impacts."

Ludwig encouraged students to create their own narrative and learn through their decisions.

Similarly, valedictorian Dennis Tang implored students to be themselves and not give up their passions.

"If we not only have the confidence but also the gumption to believe in ourselves, we'll find happiness in whatever we do," Tang said. "Although we may all be going our separate ways, West Linn High School was more than just a place where we had to wake up at the crack of dawn to find a parking spot. The spirit of West Linn, the friends we made, the skills we learned, the memories we shared will linger with us for the rest of our lives. So West Linn, for the last time ever, it's a great day to be a Lion."

WL-WV School Board Chair Ginger Fitch and Distinguished Teacher Todd Jones also gave powerful speeches that spoke to the character of the students.

Jones compared the students to super heroes through a skit with theater teacher Steve Beckingham that acted as the supervillain Thanos.

"If you really want to be a hero, it's not about super powers; it's about super love, super determination, super courage and super giving," said Jones, who then provided examples of students who represented each of those qualities. "You want to be a hero? You want to be great? Love others, love the earth, serve others, serve the earth. Leave the world and the people in it a bit better off because you were here."

There were performances by the WLHS Symphonic Band and the WLHS Symphonic Choir before students were presented with their diplomas and turned their tassels to represent the next chapter of their lives.

"You are a Lion forever and we are incredibly proud of your accomplishments," said WLHS Principal Greg Neuman. "Never forget who helped you along the way and to pay it forward to the next generation of Lions."

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