A slow bluegrass tune played last Thursday evening as parents and friends found their seats just as a breeze cooled down the stuffy gym. Everyone was here to see the 8th graders promoted to 9th graders. The next chapter in their lives would be high school. The graduates were excited and nervous as they stood outside the gym waiting for their big moment. They have no idea what is to come but they do know that they have made it this far and will keep going up the academic ladder.
The music changes to See You Again as we watch them enter. All 45 of them walk in, one by one. The girls look beautiful in their dresses and their kind, soft faces. The boys walk in looking very handsome and proud of their new success.
Ava Sanchez and Johnathan Magana-Gomez stand up nervously to lead the Pledge of Allegiance. Caleb Devine-Gomes then stands to talk about how they should all work to improve themselves. Melanie Laqunas does a beautiful job repeating it in Spanish.
The junior high school teachers — Nicole Davis, Rene Ochoa, Beth Swehla, Stefani Ewing, Nat Corey-Moran and Nathan Bublitz — read their students bios. The teachers seemed nervous themselves as they read what the students had written what they felt they needed to say about each graduate, each student’s favorite memories of junior high as well as what they plan to do in the future. Each student stands when their name is called and blushes at the recognition. The crowd claps and smiles at the presentation. As an English-only speaker it was easy for me to understand the teacher’s statements, but it must have been difficult for the Spanish-speaking families. Fortunately, Rene Ochoa made his remarks in both English and Spanish. But the microphone was too loud and made the speakers hard to understand sometimes.
Michelle Hutchins, the principal, and Nat Corey-Moran presented the certificates. Mrs. Hutchins talked about how energetic the class was and that she felt a part of the class since she began her work at the school the same time they did. She said she felt a part of them. She also reminded the graduates that even though they are promoted they still had an 8th grade final in the morning.
As each student received his diploma, they were presented together as the class of 2019
High School Graduation
The high school graduation is always the most exciting and most important because it's the final event in twelve years of education in the Anderson Valley schools. The gym is decorated the same way as the 8th grade promotion except for additional flowers provided by Maria Jones.
Everyone is nearly an hour early. The gym is hot and stuffy and is absent the cooling breeze of the previous evening. Pomp and Circumstance begins but the crowd doesn't pay attention until the first graduate walks up the center aisle. The soon-to-be graduates enter through the side doors by the stage and walk completely around the gym before they make it to the middle of the audience. It took a lot of time to get all 46 graduates onto the stage and into their seats. Each student walks in with a smile and with their head held high.
The microphone wasn’t as loud as the night before as the ceremony was presented in both English and Spanish.
The program listing the names of the graduates are soon serving as fans in the heat of the gym.
The proud graduates (*denoting honors gradutes) were: *Aaron Alvarez, Avigayl Alvarez, *Selena Anguiano, Micah Backstrom, *Diego Becerra, Uriel Carranza, Jessica Ceja, Lana Dewolff, Aileen Eligio, Karina Belen Espinoza, Romario Espinoza, Flavio Flores, *Gualberto Gastelum, Elvis Gaxiola, Jesus Gonzales, Erick Guerrero, *Mayte Guerrero, *Sandra Gutierrez, *Grecia Herrera, Beatriz Jimenez, *Marisol Jimenez, Jaylynn Laviletta, Leticia Macias, Luis Magaña, Yazil Magaña, Juana Manriquez, Lucero Marquez, Julissa Martinez, Cali Mendoza, Jesus Mendoza, Kaylie Mendoza, Oscar Natareno, Mariah Nunley, *Kathya Orozco, *Heather Perez, Jacqueline Perez, Jesus Ramirez, Fabian Sanchez, Luis Sanchez, *Victor Sanchez, Moises Segura, *Chelsea Teague, *Heather Teague, Abril Torres, *Maxence Weyrich, Regina Wilson.
There were fourteen seniors graduating with honors and two with FFA honors. Aaron Alvarez graduated with both honors. The students wanted a moment of silence for the recent losses of persons dear to them — Marianne Pardini and Ernesto Contreras. Selena Anguiano leads everyone through the Pledge of Allegiance. Heather Perez and Gualberto Gastelum welcome the parents and friends with a humorous speech highlighting their foibles. Mayte Guererro, Salutatorian, remembers the class as it went from its first days at the Anderson Valley Elementary School to four years of high school. The Valedictorian, Maxence Weyrich, delivers a wonderful speech in both English and Spanish as he wishes his classmates well. Next came the class historians, Victor Sanchez and Marisol Jimenez, who shared their memories of their classmates.
In the middle of the ceremony a little boy walked right in front of the stage and then went behind the stage. A minute later he walked back out in front of the stage. The kids were loud and playful but this little guy was the only one to walk in front of the stage. The crowd was constantly talking as well. It made the ceremony feel more casual than an important event.
Next were the awards. This took the longest. Award after award, speech after speech. It was great to see so many of the graduates receive scholarships for their hard work, but it seemed to go on for an awfully long time.
The class video, presented by Victor Sanchez, was the liveliest event of the night. Seeing the class of 2015 grow up from elementary to high school was very moving, and reminded me that I will be up there next year. Victor did a wonderful job with the video, which included memorials to Marianne Pardini and Ernesto Contreras.
Finally, it was time to award the diplomas. The graduates, holding their diplomas, paused at the foot of the stage while their proud families took their pictures. The moment had finally come. Once everyone had their diploma, a lively piece of music began and the graduates, in unison, rose from their chairs and started dancing. They danced and everyone laughed, which helped take away some of the tears of the people looking on as they marked the end of childhood and the beginning of life in the big world outside. The graduating class then walked down the middle of the gym and disappeared into the congratulating crowd waiting for them with cameras and presents. The evening had been a success!