For 144 seniors at Yosemite High School, Thursday night was an evening of unforgettable memories as they turned the tassels on their graduation caps, threw the caps in the air, and cheered in celebration of becoming Badger alumni to the thunderous applause of hundreds.
Inside Badger Stadium, each student accepted their diploma and strode across the stage as they waved to family and friends, hugged school district officials, and in some cases, wiped tears from their eyes.
“This is the end,” said Dylan Thacker, ASB vice president and one of the night’s student speakers. “This is the end of everything you have become comfortable with, the end of an era, the end of your childhood, the end of everything you have known.”
“But it’s also a beginning,” responded Jennifer Springer, ASB president and another student speaker as the two stood behind the podium. “The beginning of the rest of our lives ... a fresh start to be anyone you want to be. To have a life all your own. To make your own decisions, and be proud of them.”
Students, in speeches or otherwise, thanked the friends, family, staff, and community who helped them make the right choices, and get them to a key moment in their young adult lives.
Principal Randy Seals started his speech by describing how when he became head of the school four years ago, he looked at all the students as the freshman class, and now he had seen them grow into leaders, into achievers, and into champions.
“These students are champions, champions of all kinds,” Seals said. “When we hear that term, we usually first turn to athletics. And we do have a number of athletic champions in the class of 2017. But the term champions can be used for so much more.”
Seals listed everything from the school’s agricultural program to its Academic Decathlon team, its California Cadet Corps, its theater and art programs and more as evidence of champions, thanking each student for all their hard work.
Perhaps then, for many including Seals, the night was bittersweet. The Bass Lake Joint Union Elementary School District recently announced Seals will take over as its superintendent next school year.
“I leave with mixed emotions,” Seals said as his voice shook and eyes glistened, adding he was excited about the future, but sad at leaving the staff and students he loved so well. “But I wouldn’t be headed to my new position if not for my four years here. The same can be said for our graduates. They would not be headed in new directions without their education here. And to that end, I cannot imagine a more dynamic group of students to have experienced our four years together here at Yosemite High School. Thank you, all of you students, teachers, and staff for everything. I am eternally grateful.”
In total, 18 valedictorians - 4.0 GPA or higher - were listed among the 144 graduating students. Four were listed as valedictorian, a life member of the California Scholarship Federation (CSF) and International Baccalaureate programs, and nine were class valedictorian and life members of CSF.
Live music was provided by members of the Yosemite High School Band, Concert Choir, Chamber Singers, and graduate Jamie Hellwig with a guitar and vocal rendition of the song “Nobody Knows,” which earned her a standing ovation.
Other speakers on the night included Kaily Neal, Georgina Royse, Elise Keeler, Jericolouis Garcellano, the top valedictorian of the class Trevor Peter, and Interim Superintendent Leonard Kahn.
For live videos from the ceremony, including interviews with Trevor Peter and of the class entering Raupp Field to a packed stadium, visit the Sierra Star’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TheSierraStar.
For a full story, see the June 15 edition of the Sierra Star.