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Through Fire And Pandemic, McKenzie HS Seniors Celebrate Graduation

Jennifer Richardson

McKenzie High School’s class of 2021 graduated Saturday in a ceremony at the school gym in Blue River. Many students had lost homes to the Holiday Farm Fire in September.

That was on top of the challenges of distance learning in a pandemic—with internet access spotty or non-existent in some areas.

Credit Jennifer Richardson
The McKenzie High School class of 2021

The class chose Upper McKenzie Fire Chief Rainbow Plews as their keynote speaker. Plews is credited with saving lives and homes during the fire. She compared the graduates to the school’s mascot, the eagle.

“The fire singed your feathers and I feel like COVID kind of clipped your wings, denying you the flight that you would have normally been using during that senior year,” “But, life forgot you had some talons. Eagles have really wicked claws. And so you clawed your way through those next few months.”

Credit Andy Nelson / Register-Guard/ Pool
Register-Guard/ Pool
The McKenzie High School was one of the few buildings in Blue River that survived the Holiday Farm Fire of Sept. 7, 2020. This photo was taken a few days after the fire started, while smoke still blanketed the area.

During the ceremony, thousands of dollars were awarded in scholarships and The Hope Project surprised the graduates with $20-thousnd to be divided among the class of 2021.

Rachael McDonald is KLCC’s former News Director. Rachael has a BA in English from the University of Oregon. She started out in public radio as a newsroom volunteer at KLCC in 2000. After reporting for the Northwest News Network and KAZU, Rachael returned to KLCC in 2007 as Morning Edition host and a general assignment reporter covering politics, the environment, education, and the arts. She was hired as KLCC News Director in 2018. Rachael departed KLCC in June, 2022.