Yelm High School celebrates class of 2024 in Tacoma Dome


Yelm High School’s tradition of celebrating departing seniors inside the Tacoma Dome during the school’s graduation commencement continued in 2024, as family, classmates, teachers and district officials attended the venue to send off the group of students on June 9.

YHS seniors Amber Acosta, Hewitt Smith and Aric Gyekis were the class of 2024’s valedictorians, while Andrew Geszvain and Kiana Neir received salutatorian honors. All five students gave their own speeches prior to the students receiving their diplomas.

YHS Principal Curtis Cleveringa also presented the graduating class and audience members with a speech that reflected on this group of seniors’ four-year journey at the school. This group of students began their high school endeavors during the COVID-19 pandemic, and quickly faced challenges like online learning while starting as freshmen.

“I feel a deep sense of gratitude and joy,” Cleveringa said. “We have shared countless moments that have shaped us, not only as individuals, but as a collective. We’ve seen you grow, learn and transform.”

The principal highlighted and expressed the perseverance and willingness to learn the class of 2024 displayed. He also recognized the different routes that students will take following their graduation, including to four-year universities, technical schools and the military. He honored students who received their associates degree “without having to leave the YHS campus” and those who graduated with the same from South Puget Sound Community College.

“I want you to remember all the things you did to make it here today. How you persevered, built relationships and engaged in all aspects of life,” he said. “You didn’t go through these experiences alone. Take a look around you. You’ve all impacted each other’s lives in more ways than we can summarize.

“You’ve not only gained knowledge and skills through these experiences. You’ve gained friendships and connections that will be the foundation for future endeavors,” Cleveringa added. “I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to each and every one of you.”

Following the conclusion of the graduation ceremony on June 9, YHS senior Isabella Zurfluh reflected on her tenure at the high school and within Yelm Community Schools. Leading up to her big day, Zurfluh said she felt happy and excited, but also nervous.

“I’m excited for my next chapter in life, and seeing my family come to support me meant the world to me,” she said. “Having my best friends right by my side was my favorite part since they were feeling the same way I was.”

Zurfluh said her experience at YHS was “truly the best,” adding her senior year was her favorite year at the school.

“I joined the cheer team and made some unforgettable memories with the team. My favorite memory from being on the cheer team was tumbling with the football boys at the end of all games and celebrating with them,” Zurfluh said. “I was also the track captain for the past two years, and I really understood how to be a leader.”

She will attend Pacific Lutheran University in Parkland, Washington, and plans on obtaining her nursing degree to become a registered nurse.