WINCHESTER — Hundreds of family members and friends filled Jacoby Auditorium at Umpqua Community College to honor 81 graduates at Douglas High School’s graduation ceremony Saturday night.

Families came from as far away as California and Washington to see their loved ones walk across the stage, whether they were a first-generation graduate or a third-generation Douglas High School graduate.

Steven Shenewerk, a pastor at Winston Community Baptist Church, encouraged Douglas seniors to know their fixed reference point as they entered into the unknown, just like the Lewis and Clark expedition.

“The world before you looks nothing like the world behind you,” Shenewerk said. “Ask yourself, what are those rock-solid convictions by which you live.

“You can learn new skills, you can master new habits and you can develop new and meaningful relationships, but you must hold onto those unchanging truths.”

He compared the next step of the graduating class’s journey to the moment when the expedition discovered that canoes would not take them up the mountains and they would have to be flexible with their trip, but stick to the fixed points on their compasses.

While the graduating seniors walked the stage, Chaundra Wilbur sat on the ground with her phone ready to catch her niece, Brianna Souza, walking by.

Souza is the first on her dad’s side of the family, and only the second of her generation on her mom’s side of the family to graduate from high school.

“She’s breaking the cycle. We want her to move onto big things because we know she can,” Wilbur said. “We always knew she would do it. She believed she could, so she did.”

Twenty-three family members came from out of state to see the occasion.

Souza walked the stage with 80 other students, including Hunter Ledbetter, a third-generation Douglas High School graduate.

His grandparents, James and Mary Lou Ledbetter, met at Douglas High School in the ‘50s and have stayed in the area ever since.

“Time has gone by too fast,” Mary Lou Ledbetter said. “He’s starting a new chapter of his life.”

Hunter Ledbetter said his grandmother didn’t cry when he saw her but she may have cried later on.

“I feel like the same person,” Hunter Ledbetter said. “It still hasn’t quite clicked with me yet.”

News-Review business reporter Janelle Polcyn can be reached by email at or by phone at 541-957-4204. Or follow her on Twitter @JanellePolcyn.

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Janelle Polcyn is a reporter at The News-Review, graduated from the University of Texas, and is a podcast enthusiast.

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