BANDON - The Bandon High School Class of 2019 left their senior year behind with promises of a bright future Saturday afternoon at Otis K Murray Court.

A packed gym watched the event and cheered for the 46 students as they received scholarships, diplomas and words of wisdom. In fact, the Class of 2019 received approximately $1.5 million in scholarships, though some of those offered will not be used, depending on where the students chose to attend college.

Still, BHS Academic Adviser Erin Robertson said it's the highest amount in scholarships ever awarded to graduating Bandon seniors.

The Michael and Lindy Keiser Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation awarded 18 scholarships, most renewable for four years, totaling $94,000. Michael Keiser is founder of Bandon Dunes Golf Resort.

Many local scholarships were awarded from Rotary, Lions, Masons and other service clubs. Several new ones were also awarded, such as four scholarships totaling $13,000 from the newly formed Bandon Education Association, the Johnna Hickox Spirit of Aloha Scholarship and the Todd Freitag Memorial Scholarship. The Class of 1969 also awarded the third 50 Years Later Scholarship, this year for $4,500. Twelve students received two-year tuition waivers from Southwestern Oregon Community College for having a grade point average of 3.75 or above. And six scholarships totaling $20,000 were awarded from the Norman F. Sprague Foundation and its affiliated foundations.

A complete list of scholarships is attached as a sidebar to this story.

This was the last group of students that BHS Principal Sabrina Belletti taught in sixth grade and she lauded the class for their "amazing achievements."

Many class members wore special cords around their necks, signifying specific achievements. There were two members of the National Honor Society, seven who served in student government or leadership class for at least two years, eight who donating blood regularly to the American Red Cross, five who earned a Certificate of Allied Healthcare and credits to Southwestern, and three who just joined the Armed Forces.

There were also two Eagle Scouts among the graduates - Ethan Butler and Alexander Schulz - who were given special flags at the ceremony that had been flown over the nation's Capitol. 

The ceremony began with the senior class band members - about 12 of them - playing the National Anthem. 

Senior Class President Madison Berry, along with valedictorians Jordan Houck and her twin sister Rylie Houck, Marino Santoro and Shelby Waterman, and salutatorian Olivia McMahon, gave speeches, thanking family, friends, teachers, coaches and advisers as well as reminiscing about the past as well as dreaming of the future.

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"The amazing thing is that no matter what hardships we encountered along the way, we have all had each other," said Rylie Houck. "Some of us have been inseparable since we can remember and even the ones that didn't start with us in the beginning are still here to finish with us."

Jordan Houck said perhaps the most important take-away from the last four years would be "recognizing everyone's admirable qualities and implementing them into your own life."

"Go into your future with enthusiasm, but don't every forget the lessons you learned, the friendships you've formed, or the memories you've made," she said.

McMahon said the class has been known for its brains and goofiness and for being procrastinators and day-dreamers. 

"Even though we slacked off our fair share, there was never a time when we weren't willing to help each other out," she said.

Santoro talked about the future and said without a doubt it will contain failure.

"Throughout the rest of our lives, we're all going to fail over and over again, academically, romantically, professionally," he said. "As Abraham Lincoln once said, 'My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.' We must be willing to fail repeatedly if any of us are ever going to achieve something great."

Santoro concluded with saying he's optimistic about the future and hopes all of his classmates are able to lead meaningful lives as people who learn from their failures and live without regrets.

"The future is in our hands and it begins now. Let's not waste this opportunity that we've been given," he said.

Following the presentation of diplomas, the Class of 2019 turned their tassels and threw their caps into the air jubilantly. Class members were congratulated by family and friends, then changed to head to an all-night Project Gradution party. 

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Bandon Western World Editor Amy Moss Strong can be reached at 541-347-2423, ext. 305, or by email at amy.moss-strong@theworldlink.com. Follow Bandon Western World on Facebook.