ILWACO - As he stood before the packed house of Ilwaco High School's Aase gym, making loping strides to the podium to receive his diploma, Brandon Christman must have realized the gravity of his situation. He must have seen that the last few steps he took to get there were the shortest in his journey.
"That's going to be really exciting," he said the day prior to the ceremony. "I've worked so hard to do this and now I'm finally done."
For Christman, school hadn't been high on his list of priorities for some time. This stemmed from tragedy. During his fourth grade year, Christman's brother Travis died, sending him into a downward spiral for several years. He didn't care about much, especially school work. It wasn't until he saw his cousin Carson Cameron graduate three years ago that he started to take school seriously again.
The last two years Christman had to work hard to get back on track, but it was worth it, as he became the first from his father's side of the family to graduate from high school.
In celebration of this accomplishment, Christman flew off to the sunny shores of Hawaii for a week. Also on his vacation list for the summer are some road trips with his buddies - of which he has many.
Christman is a very well-liked member of the Class of 2004, as proven when he was voted Homecoming King this year. He used his popularity to his advantage when he founded a pep club at the school this year called, "Fish Hook."
"The morale here at the games, I wasn't very impressed with it," he said.
What did impress him was the support that other schools got from their fans during the state basketball tournament last year. So he got a bunch of guys together, a group that could grow exponentially at any given game, and attended as many basketball games as they could. He made sure to add that they only missed one varsity boys game all year, "And they lost that one."
He said he is not only proud of the participation the club garnered, but also the enthusiasm, including the innovation of their own cheers - like the "slow clap" which continues to build faster and louder. Christman himself participated in basketball during his time at IHS, as well as being a member of the varsity football squad and Leadership.
When not flying off to tropical destinations, or hitting the road with his friends this summer, you'll probably find Christman out slogging the marshy flats of the Willapa Bay, looking for the county's prize crop. Since around the age of 10, Christman has worked for his grandfather, Jim Kemmer, at the Long Island Oyster Company.
"It's not my favorite job, but it's probably the best-paying job here where you don't have to have a resume or anything," he said.
As for his future, Christman said that he hopes to attend a film school, most likely one in Colorado.
"My grandma is a big supporter of what I do," he said. "She's going to help me out a lot."
And as for others who may be in a similar situation as he once was, having a long way to go to accomplish what they want, Christman has some words of advice.
"Don't ever let anyone tell you you can't do something - I'm living proof [that you can]."