Fireworks blasted into the sky following the conclusion of Ceres High School's graduation Friday evening at Bulldog Stadium.
A total of 349 diplomas were passed out during the much-anticipated ceremony.
Approximately 83 percent of Ceres High's graduating seniors will continue their formal education, including 36 percent at four-year universities, 44 percent at community or vocational colleges and 3 percent will enter the military.
"I believe you are one of the most academically successful graduating classes CHS has ever seen," Principal Linda Stubbs stated during her farewell speech. "Twenty of you earned a cumulative GPA of 4.0 or higher. Fifty five earned a cumulative GPA of 3.5-3.99. Forty-seven percent of the graduating class of 2017 earned a B average or better throughout all four years of high school. That is amazing statistics for a comprehensive high school. Congratulations!"
Added Stubbs: "Just as you were given a challenge when you entered Ceres High School at the age of 14, I am giving you a challenge as you prepare to leave at the age of 18. And just like four years ago, this is not an easy challenge to meet and you will need support from others along the way. I challenge you to use the education you have received to become more than just successful. I challenge you to use your education to become significant and I challenge you to have a profound impact on those around you. Make others remember you. This is part of being a Bulldog."
Valedictorian Eva Borden talked about the past, present and future while addressing her classmates and those in attendance.
She had a grade-point average of 4.357.
Borden will attend Santa Clara University.
"As we anxiously and timidly take this next step in our lives, we will learn a lot about ourselves, face hardships, make big life decisions, and learn how to live off of a something our parents call a budget," said Borden. "I simply cannot stand here an offer you the cliché ‘Go after your dreams, reach for the stars, and everything will turn out great' because I don't think it will be that easy. We will be destroyed, we will be knocked down, and we will fail. But it is in those moments of destruction that we have the power to create, the power to overcome, and the power to prove to ourselves that we can succeed."
Salutatorian Karla Schmidt thanked her parents and sister before getting to the crux of her speech.
"We all know the struggle it was to finally get here, and we all know how much these last few moments on this campus will be remembered," said Schmidt, who will attend UC Santa Barbara. "It is going to be different to adjust to another routine because we are all so used to getting up and being ready for school at 7 and ending at 2, but that is what happens when we are set free into what people call the "real world." Yes, some of us might be destined to be successful doctors, others might not, but that does not matter now; what matters now is that we are all here sharing these last few moments on this campus that was home for us for the past four years. What is hard is that you just started getting close to people, and now you have to say goodbye. But that is part of growing up, you have to learn to let go and move on."
Ceres High's four salutatorians-Schmidt, Ethan Carter, Mainghor Tang and Nick Parnoutsoukian-achieved identical GPAs of 4.333.
Carter, Tang and Parnoutsoukian will continue their education at UC Berkeley, UC Davis and Modesto Junior College, respectively.