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Oskar Paul McLeod Adamson impresses one and all with a backflip after receiving his diploma Thursday at Malibu High School. Scott Steepleton/Surfside News photos
Samantha Palmer, center, and Georgia Knox, clutch hands before taking the stage at the Malibu High School commencement.
A balloon sculpture sets the stage for Thursday's Malibu High School graduation ceremony.
Mortar boards help tell many graduate stories.
Scott Steepleton, Editor
7:12 pm PDT June 10, 2021

He didn’t exactly stick the landing, but Oskar Paul McLeod Adamson’s commencement gymnastics will have the Malibu High School class of 2021 talking long after graduation day.

Oskar was among 147 students who bid farewell to MHS on Thursday — after hardly spending any time on campus at all because of distance learning brought on by the pandemic.

He was first to take the stage for the school’s 26th commencement, held under sunny skies and in gusty wind on the football field, accepting his diploma from Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Superintendent Ben Drati.

Oskar left by way of a backflip that ended with him on his backside, a minor mishap that was met with applause from all on hand, a socially distanced crowd that included Principal Patrick Miller and four of his six predecessors, Mark Kelly, Mike Matthews, Michelle “Cheli” Nye and Dave Jackson.

It was a fitting start to a diploma presentation for a group of students who saw nearly every year of high school flipped on its head by one calamity or another and whose only full year on campus was as ninth-graders.

Their high school years included fire, mudslides, earthquakes, a major campus rebuild and a pandemic.

This list does not account for anything from earlier years that helped shape the graduates.

“Take a second,” Miller urged them. “Acknowledge your individual and your collective mental and physical tenacity. You should be very proud of your accomplishments and all the experiences that helped you get to this moment today, and know that we are proud of you and that we all applaud you.”

Samantha Palmer, senior class president, talked about the trials she and her classmates saw.

“Losing so much time together as a result of everything that’s happened, we definitely missed out on the classic high school experience,” she said.

They do, however, have a genuine respect for one another, Palmer noted.

In her student address, ASB President Georgia Knox gave a nod to a tattoo on her mother’s arm: a quote by the French philosopher, author and journalist Albert Camus.

“It’s in French, but I only took two years of online Spanish. So, in English, it says, ‘In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer,’” Knox said. “And to you, class of 2021, straight off my mom’s forearm, I say to you, we have continued to find within ourselves the invincible summer.”

“Not to get cheesy, but, my god, no matter how hard the world pushes against us, within us there’s something stronger, a summer that is pushing right back,” she added. “Continue to hold that strength and power in yourselves for the rest of your lives. While there will continue to be winters, find the strength to find summer.”

The pre-diploma portion of the afternoon ceremony included recognizing the valedictorian candidates, those students who got an A in every class throughout high school: Sasha Nicole Alvarez, Ava Nicole Bradley, Hamish Christopher Buran, Sarah Amy Green, Jett Shia Kletter, Sofia D. MacDonald, Theo Morten Putterman, Daria Shcherbatykh, Madison Alexandra Smith and Emma Marie Sudmann.   

Faith Holliman told classmates that cartographers of yore would put at the edge of maps the phrase “Here be dragons,” a warning of what they envisioned beyond the known world.

“And now, we face the end of our known world, our future,” she said. “And we face it with boldness, courage and a great deal of excitement.”

Unlike ancient mapmakers, Holliman continued, “we have no need to fear the dragons of the unknown. We’ve already conquered more than our fair share.”

“Our story is not one of tragedy and defeat,” she said, “but one of triumph and determination. We have succeeded in spite of every obstacle thrown at us.”

Holliman ended her talk with a look to the future.

“Malibu High graduating class of 2021, let’s go slay some dragons!”

Graduating senior Kylie McNulty channeled a late `90s TV series vampire slayer — Buffy Summers — in her address.

“I once thought (‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’) was just a cool show about the one girl in all the world chosen to slay the vampires,” she said. “But it actually became a road map of sorts for me. Behind it all was this metaphor for growing up, entering adulthood by taking the most important step, accepting responsibility.”

Played by Sarah Michelle Gellar, the Buffy in the TV series, said McNulty, is struggling to accept her role as the slayer.

“But, in accepting her responsibility, she finds strength, power, connection. Like Buffy, we have responsibilities we need to accept if we want to walk across this stage and become the type of adults we’ve always wanted to become.”

“Buffy showed me the strength that we will find when we step up to the plate,” McNulty said.

“Like Buffy advises, I’m holding us responsible for not forgetting all the things our time at Malibu High has taught us.”

“I’ll leave you with the words from Buffy herself: ‘The hardest thing in this world is to live in it. Be brave; live.’”