Generations: Mother, daughter speak at their respective graduation ceremonies
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Saphfire Brown, left, and her mother, Grace Tulsi Marshall delivered commencement addresses at their respective graduation ceremonies fewer than 24 hours apart. —Photo by Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Graduation weekend in Port Angeles was a family affair as a mother-daughter pair took center stage at the two largest graduation ceremonies on the North Olympic Peninsula.

Saphfire Brown, 18, delivered one of three student commencement speeches for Port Angeles High School on Friday night, and her mother, Grace Tulsi Marshall, 34, delivered the student speech for Peninsula College on Saturday afternoon.

Both mother and daughter had applied to speak at their graduations.

“I always wanted to write a graduation speech. It was a childhood dream,” Brown said.

The high school received seven speeches and selected three — including Brown’s.

“Saphfire found out first. I considered not walking in the college ceremony because I wanted her to have her day,” Marshall said.

Marshall said she didn’t know she had been selected to be the student speaker until a week before the ceremony.

“They waited so long, I thought they selected someone else. When we realized we were both selected, it was kind of mind-blowing,” she said.

Marshall received an Associate of Arts with a 4.0 grade-point average.

She plans to major in engineering and minor in environmental science at the University of Washington after taking a few more classes at Peninsula College to get her Associate of Science before transferring.

Science and engineering were not what Marshall originally had in mind.

She hadn’t taken a math class since she was 15 when she got pregnant and dropped out of school to work as a bartender, a waitress and for a short time in the insurance industry.

Unsatisfied with where she was going in life, Marshall decided it was time to do something different.

“I planned on a nursing degree,” Marshall said.

However, once she started taking classes, she found that she had a hidden talent.

“She discovered she is a total math brainiac,” Brown said.

Marshall tore through the math courses, and when she finished the math requirements for nursing, she didn’t want to stop studying the subject.

“I was sad about not taking the next level of math,” she said. “I decided it was time to reconsider my goals.”

She focused on an engineering degree and hasn’t looked back.

Brown said her mother passed her up in math this year, when both reached the calculus courses at their respective schools.

“It’s more difficult for me. I would have to call her: ‘Mom, help me with this,’ ” she said.

Brown has been accepted to Dartmouth College in New Hampshire and received a full-ride scholarship to the school and numerous community scholarships.

She was named a Commended Student in the 2014 National Merit Scholarship Program; maintained a 3.7 grade-point average, mostly with advanced placement and honors-level courses, and played soccer, was a member of the school orchestra and held a part-time job.

“My mom is my inspiration. It always come up: At interviews, they ask me who my inspiration is. The answer is always, ‘My mom,’ ” Brown said

Brown said she plans to take courses in government for her undergraduate degree, then spend some time in the Peace Corps “to get a better feel for what I want to do,” and finally return for a graduate degree.

Eventually, she plans to find a niche in international diplomacy, either in business or government, she said.

Marshall has two younger daughters: Lily Brown, 15, who will be the Port Angeles High School junior class president in 2014-15, and Trinity Myers, 4.


Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at

Last modified: June 14. 2014 6:12PM
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