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By News-Register staff • 

Mac High graduates largest class

Thousands of relatives and friends filled Wortman Stadium Friday night to watch McMinnville High School graduate its largest class ever, 482 students.

This article was updated at 10 a.m. Tuesday, June 8, with additional information and photos.

Well-wishers carried flowers, stuffed animals and balloon bouquets to give to members of Mac High’s 105th graduating class. “Dream Big!” read one huge balloon. Another was shaped like a bear — a smiling version of the school mascot — and wore a mortarboard, just like the red-robed Grizzlies on the football field.

The Class of 2015 has earned more than $6,167,649 million in scholarships, awards and grants thus far, Principal Kris Olsen said. That’s in addition to numerous honors, including scholar-athlete awards, all-league and all-state designations and kudos for community service.

“This is the nicest and friendliest group of graduates,” teacher Mark Bunker noted during the ceremony. “Those characteristics will serve you well.”

Members of the class also earned hundreds of college credits before receiving their Mac High diplomas. One-third of the graduates earned enough to equal almost a full year of college, Olsen said.

Many earned more. Makala Khatewoda had the most, with 83.

Walter Stahl and Nancy Gonzalez Suarez were named outstanding boy and girl of the year for their character and service.

Jack Markee won the professional/technical award. Maya Payton won the academic excellence award.

Administrators, school board members and faculty marched into the stadium at the beginning of the ceremony, then formed a gauntlet to welcome the seniors. Members of the Class of 2015 marched in, two by two.

Most students expressed themselves by decorating their mortarboards. Some wrote initials or favorite sayings, or glued on happy faces or Pokemon cards.

Logan Hart and James Atkinson covered their mortarboards with cow-shaped hats, in honor of their membership on the Nerd Herd robotics team. Adrian Ulices Mondragon Lara marched in with a chicken on his cap.

And Patrick Johnson, an engineering student, built a motorized propeller for his mortarboard. It was spinning as he walked to his seat.

“Patrick’s going to the Oregon Institute of Technology next year,” his mother explained. “He’s going to be a software engineer.”

Mici Stenersen spotted her son, Bryon Stenersen, among red-robbed graduates entering the stadium. He wore a cord noting that he had completed a pathway in emergency services.

He plans to become a firefighter/EMT, she said. The $500 pathway scholarship he won will help him pursue that ambition.

Helping others comes naturally to Bryon, his mom said. “He’s very empathetic and caring. A very nice kid,” she said.

Among his activities at Mac High was helping as a peer tutor in the Life Skills program. He also lettered for playing on the Unified Sports team.

The graduates included 18 salutatorians and 10 valedictorians, who led the class with perfect grades.

Two of the valedictorians, Claire Bernhisel and Carlisle Topping, were chosen as class speakers.

“Look how you’ve grown!” Claire exclaimed to her classmates, many of whom she’s known since Bear Hugs, the preschool program.

She listed some of what they’ve learned over the years — how to walk in a line in kindergarten, how to spell “little” in first grade, how to prepare for escaping a house fire in fifth grade. In high school, she said, they learned about careers and about themselves, too, becoming individuals as well as a cohesive class.

Now that they’re graduating, she told her classmates, “look to the future. See how far you can go.”

Carlisle, unlike Claire, spent only one year at Mac High after transferring from the Sheridan Japanese School. It was quite an adjustment, leaving a school with fewer than 100 students to one with more than 2,000, she said. But she appreciated the diversity she found at Mac High.

“I’m incredibly grateful to graduate with the Grizzlies,” she said.

She advised her classmates to keep learning and creating their individual storylines. “It’s important we celebrate ourselves, use our stories and our gifts to impact others,” Carlisle said.

As school board members and teachers handed out diplomas, Tom and Michelle Joel clapped for their daughter, Courtney Joel.

“This is a happy and sad day,” her father said. “We’re really proud to see her graduate. But to see a little girl grow up so fast...”

Courtney is a good student who has been active in high school and outside school, as well, he said. She’s been dancing for 13 years, doing ballet, jazz and other styles.

After her family’s graduation celebration and a few weeks off, she will work at a dance studio. This fall, she will attend Mount Hood Community College with the goal of becoming a physical therapy assistant.

Oliver and Yanira Vera cheered as their eldest son, Oliver Vera II, received his diploma. The new graduate has been accepted at four schools, his dad said. He’ll probably choose either George Fox University or Brigham Young to study sports science, with the goal of becoming a physical therapist.

First, though, Oliver will spend two years on a mission for his church. At graduation time, the family was still waiting to find out where he would be sent.

His dad said he was proud of his son’s achievements at Mac High, where the tall teen was known as “Big O.” He was on the cheer team, played football, swam and participated in track. A senior class senator, he mentored elementary students and completed a health career pathway, the elder Vera said.

But Dad was even more proud of his son’s character. “He’s very gentle and kind. He’s very respectful, well-mannered and polite,” he said “He works very hard. His motto is ‘make doubters believers.’”



482 but how many actually learned and earned the diploma?


In reply to listen*up: 482, just like the article says.

Don Dix

My 16 year old grand-daughter (junior) graduated a year early, so she would be one that 'learned and earned' ... I'm sure there are more!


it says 482 graduated it doesn't say they were competent and earned it,my kids graduated from this school,i know the stories of how many were given diplomas that couldn't pass any basic tests,and yes my kids got into and graduated college because i cared,but i also know they give diplomas to kids that couldn't pass an eye's all about the numbers.

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