Media Room


Governor Kate Brown
Woodburn High School Commencement Address
Friday, June 7, 2019

Good evening, I’m so honored to be here.

I want to thank Principal Juan Larios for the generous introduction.

And a hearty congratulations to the Class of 2019.  You did it!

The community of Woodburn reminds me of why I love Oregon. We all embrace and welcome our differences. And we never back down from a challenge.

In Woodburn, you have embraced and built upon your history as a migrant farming community.

From celebrating Fiesta Mexicana every August to sharing Russian culture and traditions at Heritage Elementary’s Russian Festival. To teaching in multiple languages at your schools. Everything you do is driven by community.

For example, because of the school district’s dual-language program that starts in kindergarten, most of you will walk across the stage today fluent in at least two languages. And some of you are fluent in three.

That’s amazing.

And it means you all have an invaluable skill that will serve you well in your career.  And allow you to better serve your community.

This community also is not afraid take on challenges. When confronted with low statewide graduation rates, shrinking budgets, and unmanageable classroom sizes, you got creative.

The school district split the high school into multiple interest areas so that no one would get lost in the crowd. With smaller schools, teachers are able to provide every student with the attention they need to thrive. Many describe the environment here like a family.

Since the change, graduation rates have skyrocketed to 89%.

A full 10 percentage points higher than the statewide average. That’s extraordinary. Among schools with a majority of Latino students, Woodburn has the second highest graduation rate in the state.

This community has also invested in counselors like Mr. Garza and Mr. Manetti. They helped you when you needed a little support and guidance. And they inspired you to see a high school diploma as a milestone in a fulfilling life. Because graduation isn’t a finish line, it’s a launch pad.

Mr. Garza was inspired by his parents, migrant farmworkers who moved to Oregon in the 1950s. Education was not readily available to them, so they made sure to instill the value of education into Mr. Garza and his brothers. In turn, Mr. Garza is able to share that passion for education with all of you.

You all come from different places, different pasts, and different cultures. Your lives were woven together, through this unique experience at Woodburn High School. And now, you have the opportunity to inspire others.

Take for example, your classmate and fellow graduate Jessica. Growing up without a father and with a mother who was often absent, she faced many obstacles in her path to graduation. She hopes to someday find a career where she can be a role model for others.

During her sophomore year, Jessica got a job to help support her family. She used her earnings to pay for groceries, and to use the laundry mat when her mother wouldn’t fix their washing machine. She often had to stay late at school to keep up with her studies, but she did -- and she finished that year with a 4.0 GPA.

At the age of 16, Jessica pursued emancipation from her mother. Determined to prove to a judge that she was able to live on her own, she worked not one, not two, but three jobs that summer.

Even with all her responsibilities at home, she still managed to take 5 IB classes her junior year, join the National Honor Society, and begin oil painting.

She has been offered 6 college scholarships, including the “Beat the Odds” scholarship presented by Stand for Children.

Although Jessica says it’s hard to think about the future when she is so busy, she plans to spend a year in Mexico to perfect her Spanish language skills before attending college and pursuing a degree.

Jessica is just one example of the many great students you have here. Your mission at Woodburn High School is diverse in culture, unified in mission. The school inspired each of you to harness your unique talents toward a common goal, to build a better community for all of us. Because our differences make us stronger.

Each of you took a different journey to this stage. And each of your paths has been defined by love and support, hardship and loss.

But, like your mascot, the Bulldog -- You never gave up. You never gave in.

You will set out in different directions the moment you leave here today.

And that is what makes our state such a rich and interesting place to live.

It is our differences that will push this state forward, and inspire the rest of the country to follow suit.

Now, it’s your turn to come together to make the Oregon of our future. One that is welcoming and inclusive.

Looking out at your faces, I see pride, hope and yes, immense relief. And I am reminded of Oregon’s motto, “She flies with her own wings.”

Class of 2019, you stand on the edge of the nest, wings outstretched, sun on your face. The winds are in your favor. You are strong. You are ready to leap into the blue.

So, fly. Soar. Be the brilliant and talented person you were meant to be. I can’t wait to see what you do next.

Congratulations. I am so proud of each and every one of you.

Thank you.