After the congratulations, dancing and tears following Roseburg High School’s graduation ceremony at Finlay Field on Saturday, new graduate Ally Woodring had one more person to tell.
Her mother, Rachel Everhart, who died in a car accident on June 15, 2018.
Woodring said she planned to visit her mother’s grave on graduation day and tell her that she graduated.
“She’ll know though,” Woodring said. “She’ll know.”
Everhart helped Woodring run for associated student body president, making little “vote” signs and supporting her campaign, which aimed to give every student a voice and feel important on campus. Everhart died after the election.
Woodring was determined not to let her mother’s death be an obstacle during her senior year.
“I decided I’m the type of person who doesn’t let pain or grief stop me. I use it as a motivation to keep going,” Woodring said. “I knew that’s what she would have wanted me to do. I think she’s just proud that, everything I said I was always going to do, promised myself, like being valedictorian, making a positive impact on the school. I guess I can say I fulfilled those and it gives me a bit of peace. I know that she knows that.”
Roseburg High School Principal Jill Weber said she taught both of Woodring’s parents when they were in high school and she was privileged to teach Ally as well.
“Ally’s vision of every kid being important in the school and feeling a part of the school has been my vision as well,” Weber said.
“Being able to work side-by-side with a student to achieve that goal has been pretty cool.”
An overflow crowd converged on Finlay Field under pleasant, sunny skies to watch 311 students receive their diplomas Saturday afternoon. Pockets of cheers of varying levels of excitement greeted each student as Woodring and ASB Vice President Marinda Carlyle read the names.
The band played “The Impression that I Get” by the Mighty Mighty Bosstones for the recessional and then celebrated with a rendition of “Hey! Baby” as recent graduates danced in circles nearby.
For Woodring’s fellow students at Roseburg High School, graduation was a long-anticipated farewell, but for Woodring, it was saying goodbye to family connections made at the school.
“I hear all my friends around me talk about how they’re so ready to be done and they’re so excited about summer and I feel it a little bit, but leaving all the staff, leaving the teachers, it’s definitely not something I’m looking forward to,” Woodring said.
Woodring said she walked the hallways with a somber attitude during the last few days of school, remembering shopping trips with leadership teacher Eileen Stanton and s’mores with the yearbook class. Staff and teachers became a family to Woodring during the many hours she spent on campus as yearbook editor and ASB president.
“It’s been such a rewarding experience, and, honestly, I think that it shaped me into who I am, because I’ve had to learn so many things about leadership and standing up for what you believe in, even when it’s hard,” Woodring said. “It’s been an experience I wouldn’t take back for the world, even though I spent many long, long hours here on the weekend.”
The class of 2019 was new to the the high school the same year Weber took over as principal, which was just a few weeks before the UCC shooting. It was also the first class to graduate on the new turf field.
“The word unity comes to mind with this group, so I’ve chosen the word ‘community’ for them because that strong community that they have and community that we have,” Weber said. “It’s pretty special and it’s something I don’t know if they recognize fully yet. When you leave this community and you see what else is out there, you realize how special this community really is.”
As Woodring and Carlyle got ready to read the last two names, Woodring looked at Carlyle and choked up as she asked, “you ready?”
They read each other’s names and walked off the stage and out of their high school years.
Weber closed the ceremony with a short speech, saying she wished each student would find community like the one in Roseburg wherever they go.
“We see you, we believe in you, and we love you,” Weber said.