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344 at Ceres High pick up diplomas
• Gusty evening greets CHS seniors' final moments at school
CHS grad
Ceres High School senior Darian Gomes was all smiles to proudly hold up his diploma for family to see at Thursday evening’s graduation in Bulldog Stadium. Next to him are Tyler McCue and David Duarte. - photo by Jeff Benziger

Cool evening breezes untamed tassels and gave lift to red grad caps as 344 seniors of Ceres High School sat assembled Thursday evening on their football field for the last time as a class. Speeches, music and the traditional playing of “Pomp and Circumstance” signaled farewell to the Class of 2018 during commencement exercises attended by an estimated 4,500 well-wishers.

At the 7:30 p.m. start of graduation, a blustery Bulldog Stadium was filled by enthusiastic parents and family members in the bleachers wielding cell phone cameras, gifts, flowers and a few cow bells ready to clang for specific graduates names.

Aylin Quezada
Aylin Quezada captures a moment of her graduation on her smartphone on Thursday evening. - photo by Jeff Benziger

Krishma Malhotra, ASB president, welcomed the crowd and reflected on the four years of memories at Ceres High. She also thanked parents and staff for their support along the way. To her classmates, Krishma said “only we know how difficult but fun this journey has and how much we have all grown from it. I hope that none of us ever forget everything that happened here and I wish each of you all the success in the world.”

Senior Class President Gurpinder Bahia presented the class gift. Through a series of fundraisers, the class came up with $2,300 to buy a paw print and bulldog fence decoration along the gates around CHS to show their “Bulldog pride for future games, homecomings and spirit days.” The remainder of the funds will go toward an awning for the amphitheatre.

Salutatorian Alondra Alvarez spoke and included a quote from her favorite movie, Mulan: “A flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all.”

“I interpret this quote to mean that each and every one of us were able to overcome any adversities or challenges we faced throughout high school to be sitting here today, which only makes this moment all the more sweeter and beautiful,” said Alvarez. “But many times we did not have to face these challenges alone. One thing I admire about our class is how supportive we are of one another, whether we needed to shoot the quizlet, or just needed someone to vent our teenage drama to.”

She concluded her speech with an admonition to her classmates to “embark on your new journey, be brave, be confident and be great.” 

Harmenjit Bathia, the class valedictorian, opened her speech with a famous quote: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

“Our lives, in a sense, are a journey composed of a thousand miles and high school graduation is merely a single step,” said Bahia.

She said she could romanticize the high school experience by reminiscing about all the games, rallies and dances but concluded “the step that we will take today is not defined by these trivial commonalities of high school. The step we will take today is defined by the knowledge we have acquired through our education. This step is not the biggest step we will take, nor the final in our journey of a thousand miles. Our most significant step is the one that we will take next – after high school.”

She advised her fellow graduates that they will face challenges, which “no matter the size, will contribute to your journey and will each serve as a step. Encountering failure is inevitable, but succumbing to it is not.”

Principal Linda Stubbs bid farewell with the class in a short speech themed, “Technology Changes Quickly.” She reflected on when she graduated from high school in 1984 and recalls how her family felt her dad’s purchase of a computer was a waste of money. She said that the graduates were the “only graduating class who can claim that you left high school with the first round of Ceres Unified Chromebooks” used in class.

“You had to learn how to be responsible digital citizens, to protect your digital footprints, and to open your minds to new possibilities, perhaps to things you have never even heard of before. Now we are retiring those beloved Chromebooks and getting ready for new and improved ones – ones that have more capabilities, ones that will open more doors for other students.”

She concluded that the graduates “may be training soon for a job that doesn’t even exist yet” or “solving problems that we don’t even recognize as problems yet.”

“How do you move forward into a future that has yet to be defined yet?” Stubbs asked. “You do the same thing you did three years ago … you listen, you watch, you figure it out and share your findings with others, you learn.” 

Stubbs noted that 43 percent of the class earned a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 to 3.99 and 33 students had a cumulative GPA of 4.0 or better. A total of 32.3 percent of the class are attending a four-year university; 35 percent are entering a vocational or community college; About 13 percent are headed straight into the workforce or are undecided and14 graduates are entering military service. 

Music for the event was furnished by the CHS Wind Ensemble and seniors Cheyenne Ramirez, Rose Sammons, Jazlin Gutierrez, Trevor Horstman, Juan Amaya, Antonio Gonzalez, Cesar Barajas, Peyton Toste Starkweather, Alejandra Sanchez and Matthew Bailey.

Handing out diplomas were CUSD board trustees Faye Lane, Mike Welsh, Jim Kinard, Teresa Guerrero, Betty Davis, Valli Wigt and Lourdes Perez.

Valedictorian Harmenjit Bahia
Ceres High valedictorian Harmenjit Bahia speaks. - photo by Jeff Benziger