Senior year, even high school in general, is a long series of best and worst moments. Beyond making the time memorable, these moments teach some welcome — or sometimes unwelcome — lessons. Since my four years are finally up, I want to reflect on a few of these experiences and share some of the wisdom those experiences taught me.

Similar to how we chose to label outgoing seniors with “Best style” or “Most likely to be famous,” I am calling these my “Senior Best Moments.”

Best Learning Experience: This title goes to my guitar class. Although I only spent a semester with them, and even that was cut short, I feel like it was one of my favorite classes this year. I really enjoyed when topics that at first seemed too difficult began to click. Even though I would hesitate to even call myself a beginner, the class at least gave me some confidence to explore the instrument on my own. What I want to say is that, based on this experience, the last semester of senior year doesn’t need to be a lame duck. It can still be a time to try something new!

Best Near-Disaster: Of course, not everything went smoothly this year, and here is one slightly humorous example. As context, a few times over the past two years I have helped to play music at school events and dances. On one such occasion — during our Winter Formal dance — the music suddenly disappeared. It turns out I had been running it in such a way that the entire sound system of the school had overheated and shut down. Nothing was actually damaged, and I was able to resume the music after a few minutes. The lesson here: Know your equipment, because it helps you to catch mistakes before a bunch of people have to watch you fix them.

Best Family Traditions: For many families, graduation is a time where one event helps bring everyone together on the same page. It shows in the stories, traditions, and shared memories that bridge the gap between generations. With my graduation, I ended up following in the footsteps of my family in two very contrasting ways. I became the fourth person in my family to be salutatorian of my class, following my grandmother, aunt and uncle. Then, all of us who had been given this honor ended up giving a speech. Some of us approached this differently than others. I took after my aunt, in that we both finished writing our speeches within minutes of giving them. Of course, my speech was into a camera, so her situation was far more intense than mine. My takeaway is that, although procrastination is a mistake, at least you won’t be the first one to make it.

Best Trip: A big part of the last-year experience for many seniors is visiting the colleges they hope to attend. I was fortunate enough to spend a few days in Tucson, Ariz., where I visited The University of Arizona. I loved being able to get a sneak peak at the city and campus where I wanted to spend my next four years. So I would definitely advise any upcoming seniors, and maybe even juniors, to take advantage of college visits. They can be both informative and a lot of fun.

Best Community Connection: To end my list, I wanted to mention how much I have enjoyed being a part of Unleashed. Since I joined as a senior, it has really felt like a highlight of my last year. I am so thankful for the way the program has helped me grow more connected to my community through my writing, and the support I have received has been incredible. With the help of the Unleashed staff, Yakima Herald-Republic and my fellow writers, I feel like I can really appreciate the work of journalists and reporters so much more.

So, my last piece of advice for students is to try some kind of journalism. This can be done online, through a school paper, in college, or maybe you too will try it through Unleashed. It might just end up as something you want to keep doing.

Justin Klingele is a 2020 graduate of Riverside Christian School and has been a member of the Yakima Herald-Republic’s Unleashed program for the past year. He plans this fall to enroll at the University of Arizona to study astronomy and possibly physics and journalism.