The high school experiences of 369 seniors ended Thursday evening when the Central Valley High School graduated its class of 2017 amid song and speeches and tears.
Perfect weather provided the backdrop for the festive occasion outdoors in the courtyard as graduates filed into grandstands set up in the amphitheatre to the tunes of "Pomp & Circumstance" played by the school band. Principal Dan Pangrazio walked the class in with Ceres Unified School District Supt. Scott Siegel and faculty.
The Ceres American Legion Post 491 posted the colors before Sandra Garcia led in the singing of the National Anthem.
Senior Class President Yuliana Garcia delivered a welcome address.
"This school has been much more than just a building and walls," said Garcia. "It has brought me endless opportunities to become successful within those classrooms as well as bringing me lifelong friends. Central Valley (High) has taught me that a hawk can truly soar and that the sky is not the limit. As we soar onto the next chapter of our lives and go our own ways, I wish my fellow classmates the best in their next stage of their lives and that we can reach all our dreams."
In her Senior Address, Danielle Haro noted that her fellow graduates come from different cultures but they don't define the future.
"We all come from different cultures, races and backgrounds," said Haro. "Some of us are Mexicans, Asians or African American and a majority of us are first-generation students. But these aspects should not define our future. No, they should not be a hindrance but a stepping stone to prove to our families and ultimately ourselves that we are able to create a brighter future for our generation and generations to come! Let these different aspects of race and culture help build our communities, help build our future colleges to the difference that we want to see in the world. Let this generation be the change!"
Special music, "Fanfare for the Third Planet" was provided by CVHS band members, followed by the Spanish address entirely in Spanish delivered by graduate Julied De Los Angeles Urrieta Perez.
Valedictorian Cesar Armas delivered his remarks, starting out by offering thanks to parents, family and staff at Central Valley High School for "providing a capable learning environment."
"It's crazy to think of where we were as individuals four years ago," said Armas. "Quite honestly, I never imagined myself on this stage talking to all of you. The prospect of graduating high school was so far into the future we never actually thought of the event until graduation was actually here. Throughout our four years at Central Valley, all of us have grown as individuals. Compared to our freshman brains, I can attest to the fact that most of us certainly think different, we act differently, we are more accepting of new things and other people that allow us to be better, functioning members of society. I can also attest that we are all ready for what our future has to bring us. As the cliché goes, this graduation is not an ending, it is a beginning."
Armas went on to urge the class of 2017 to "take control of our future."
"Step into the world with a stride of confidence. Be the innovators, visionaries and workers of the future in whatever you pursue. Strive for greatness in whatever you may want to do, but make sure you're happy with what you end up doing. Often times many of us may be pressured to pursue something simply because our parents want us to succeed or because we ourselves want to be what others claim to be ‘successful.' Be sure to do what makes you happy. Be content with your life and be content with what you choose to follow."
Before finishing, Cesar stressed making sure to love what one does. "Love what you strive for, love those around you and most importantly love those who have been there for you since the beginning."
Class salutatorians were Adrian Alvarez, Alexandra Acevedo, Cory Cantaloube, Jamie Chapman, Max Chavez, Kristie Del Valle, Rajvir Dool, Dylan Miranda and Rasmey Sek.
Baneza Esquivel sang the Senior Song, "Rise Up."
Principal Dan Pangrazio delivered farewell remarks to the class of 2017, with words of advice.
"If you passively walk through life thinking and believing that the world around you is a product of forces outside of your control, then you are not making your life what you want it to be," said the principal. "The truth is, your actions, your efforts, that originate from your voice and from your desire to make a difference in your own lives and the lives of others has an impact beyond your imagination.
"You can change your lives and your world with your words and actions. You have the power to create your future every day. Your life is not already written. It is a blank page, an open canvas, a vast future of possibilities."
After diplomas were handed out by members of the CUSD board of trustees, the seniors joined with relatives in a recessional song, "Time of Your Life" popularized by Green Day.