Rain or shine, 147 Yosemite High School seniors were going to gather June 5 in Badger Stadium to graduate. Just two hours before the commencement ceremony was to begin thunder roared, the wind whipped-up, and rain came creating little pools of water on the chairs the graduates were to be seated on, and rivulets of water on the bleachers where upwards of 1,700 parents, family, and friends would sit to witness the ceremony.
The decision had to be made. Sun glasses or umbrellas? Many opted to bring both.
An hour before the 7:30 p.m. event, the rain stopped, the sun came out, and droplets of water on grass sparkled as the custodial staff towel dried seating surfaces in preparation for the school’s 39th graduation ceremony.
A little rain was not about to dampen the spirits of the graduates. They gathered in the school cafeteria talking with friends, taking plenty ‘selfie’ photos, and adjusting mortarboards, tassels, and honor cords. There was even a round of “happy birthday” sung to Student of the Year Kelsi Stieler, whose eighteenth birthday coincided with her graduation day.
The graduates trekked from the gym onto the football field to the sounds of Pomp and Circumstance played by the YHS band under the direction of Francisco Marquez. The Color Guard of the YHS California Cadet Corps 66th Battalion 5th Brigade presented the colors followed by the National Anthem sung by the YHS Chamber Singers.
Yosemite High Principal Randy Seals reminded the graduates and audience that the Class of 2015 has a number of athletic league champions - boys and girls golf, girls cross country, girls basketball, boys swimming and diving, boys tennis and girls track and field.
“Yosemite High School claimed this year’s Ginsburg Cup for the eleventh consecutive year ... the award presented to the school with the best athletic programs in the North Sequoia League,” beamed Seals.
Seals pointed out that in addition to the athletic teams, there were many other ‘champions’ sitting on Raupp Field, including students involved in agricultural welding, FFA livestock exhibition, art, music, choir, science, and theater arts.
“We have Madera County Mock Trial champions once again, along with Academic Decathlon champions for the twenty-second consecutive year,” Seals said. “Let’s also be sure to include the California Cadet Corps ... this year’s annual inspection resulted in a “Superior” rating, a rating that only 5% of all schools in the state achieve” he said.
District Superintendent Jim Sargent introduced the district board of trustees: Tammy Loveland, Monika Moulin, John Reynolds, Joe Smith and Christine Wilder.
Senior Jocelyn Boe, a lyric soprano, sang Stephen Schwartz’s “For Good,” a cappella and “Kids” by MGMT was performed by seniors Breeze Leal, Malory Meiss and Maya Mendonca.
Stieler, Koe speak of dandelion seeds
Senior class president Stieler, headed to California State University, Fresno, on a four-year, full-ride Smittcamp scholarship, and senior class vice president Helen Ko, bound for University of the Pacific in Stockton, spoke to the gathering.
“One month ago, Helen and I witnessed a beautiful scene. Spring was here and the flowers were blooming. We looked up in the sky and saw the air filled with hundreds of dandelion seeds making their journey to the place that they will set their roots upon,” said Stieler.
“Aren’t we all like those dandelion seeds? All from one community as the seeds are all from one dandelion. The roots, like this community, and our family, like the stem, have supported and helped us grow. Without them, none of us would be here today,” said Ko.
“Just as the seeds leave the plant, many of us are leaving behind our friends and family to find a place to spread and plant our own roots. Some of us will travel great distances to pursue our dreams while others will stay close to home. No matter the distance that separates us, we will always be connected as a Badger family,” said Stieler.
Olivia Pearson, headed to USC, and Sam Williams, going to the University of California, San Diego in the fall, combined nostalgia and humor in the speech they presented as the valedictorian speakers.
ASB president Aaron Bausch who will attend University of California, Santa Barbara, and his best friend and ASB vice president Chase Lassos, who will attend USC reminisced about how they first met on the gridiron five years ago.
“That was before we decided that maybe we were better suited with a pencil in our hand than a football ... We were two of 13 players on a youth football team who made history with a record of 0 and 10,” Bausch said.
But they walked away from that experience with valuable life lessons.
“Lessons like responsibility, team work, integrity, and hard work,” Lassos said. “But the most important lesson we learned, and a lesson that applies for all of our class is perseverance.”
Honor cords signify excellence
The honor cords were worn to signify excellence in academic achievements. Those wearing the prestigious cords were:
* Boe, Ko,Stieler, Kyle Kingsland, Sophia Grace O’Meara, Olivia Pearson, and Katelyn Suderman wore honor cords signifying their good standing as California Scholarship Federation (CSF) life members, class valedictorians and International Baccalaureate (IB) full diploma candidates.
* Sabrina Garcia and Alessia Quilla-Thayer wore cords showing CSF life membership and IB full diploma candidacy. Maya Mendonca and Samuel Williams were recognized as class valedictorians and IB full diploma candidates.
* Bausch, Lassos, Jewel Crosson, Oliver Curley, Ryan Emerick, Veronica Miller, Sarah Swan, Rebekah Urbano and Jonathan Wharton wore honor cords as class valedictorians and CSF life members.
* Kristin Bonillas, Timothy Conley, Kayla Furin, Danielle Mills, Jessica Noonkester, Emma Reda, Kimiko Smith, and Jessica Tanoury were recognized as CSF life members.
* Samuel Devito, Taylor Levee and Julia McConville were recognized as class valedictorians.
Safe & Sober Grand Night
Following the ceremonies on Raupp Field, about 120 of the 145 graduates attended the Safe & Sober Grad Night Party at Camp Oakhurst from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
The party was sponsored by the Yosemite High PTA, with sober grad ‘divas’ Kimberly Smith and Shawnessy Gaynor co-chairing the event. About 10 school employees and teachers, and 25 parent volunteers worked the event.
In addition to plenty of pizza, sandwiches, and snacks, activities at the party included a giant water slide, volleyball, paint ball, giant swing, a lively bingo game, and blackjack dealt by Tony Mclean and Gary Blate, using monopoly money that could be turned-in for additional raffle tickets.
A hypnotist entertained the graduates, and Alan and Linda West, owners of California Photo Booth, donated photos for everyone in attendance.
A popular activity throughout the event was the drawing of names for more than 250 prizes valued of nearly $8,000 that were contributed by Mountain Area businesses and individuals. Prizes and raffle gifts included four shiny bicycles, mini-refrigerators, a 24-inch flat-screen television, cookware, microwave ovens, XBox games, Asus Tablet, dorm bedding, blenders, luggage, electric razors, backpacks, beach chairs, car care products, coffee makers, a Notebook PC, and beach chairs.
The big prize at the event, a 2001 Ford Taurus, donated by Sierra Tel, was won by Jessalyn Talley, a recent graduate of Glacier High School. Glacier’s graduation ceremony was held May 29, and grads were invited to attend the event.
YHS English teacher Sarah Campstrom, and her husband Pete, ran the bingo game. Pete also made French lemon macarons and ‘minions’ decorated cupcakes for the students.
Graduate Sam DeVito, who will be attending San Diego State in the fall, said he couldn’t believe how many prizes and gifts there were for everyone.
“The people and businesses of this community are so great supporting the graduates the way they do,” DeVito said. “This is great fun - everyone is in such a good mood - all the parents, and staff at the camp are so nice to us.”
YHS List of Graduates
Sophia Grace O’Meara
Ian Thomas Sauceda
Bo Chayton Thompson