Ceres High School ushered its class of 347 seniors into the world during a warm but breezy Friday evening ceremony punctuated by music, quotes, speeches, jubilation and, at the end, parting hugs, smiles, laughter and selfies.
Parents, siblings, grandparent, uncles and aunts and other family members and friends packed in the full Bulldog stadium to witness the school's 102nd graduation.
Graduates marched into to the ceremony wearing red caps and gowns - which exposed flip flops, tennis shoes and even cowboy boots - to Pomp and Circumstances played by the school concert band. This was followed by the posting of colors by the American Legion Post 491 and the playing of the National Anthem by the CHS wind ensemble of Alinda Alvarado, Heidi Flores, Chelsea Johnson, Anthony Martinez, Marty Martinez, Yury Navas, Shirley Steele, Able Verduzco and Leah Vivar.
ASB President Emily Chapman welcomed all to the ceremony.
Senior Class President Brooke Anderson recounted the memorability of the four years at CHS. She said her class raised over $14,000 which is being donated for a blow-up football tunnel and funds toward an awning for the school amphitheater.
"I can say proudly, as a class, we look to our past with pride and to our future with hope," said Anderson. "Thank you class of 2014, for making this past four years a memorable, incredible ride."
She introduced the playing of David Cook's recorded song, "Time of Your Life."
Class salutatorian Alick Liang said the writing of his graduation speech was "bitter sweet," acknowledging it would be his last high school assignment. He said closing high school opens the next chapter of the graduates' lives "where opportunities open up again and possibilities are infinite. Liang asked his classmates to embrace their past because "you are not who you are today without your past leading you."
"After venturing through this four year journey, what I think we will miss the most is walking down the hall and hearing your name yelled left and right, giving everyone handshakes and hugs," said Liang. "Edgar Torres and Shane Kumar both said ‘In high school, we are just a little fish in a small pond, but we soon outgrow that pond and arise to a matured fish swimming through a vast and endless ocean.' As we continue on to college or a job, many of us will venture forth on our own, never experiencing that connection of friends created in high school again. We will walk past strangers, struggling to put a name to their face; we will sit in classes packed with three hundred people, lost in the midst of it all; we will. Although these new and compelling experiences seem intimidating, it will just begin another chapter in our lives and it will be the best time of our lives!"
"It's not the end - it's the beginning of something magnificent for every individual graduating here today," said Valedictorian Arcelia Hermosillo.
She told the audience that she asked fellow seniors what graduation would be like. Two responses shared were from Madison Bull who was quoted as saying: "Graduation is saying goodbye to a part of who we are so we can discover who we truly can be." Andre Torres replied: "Graduation is more meaningful than it seems. It is the last time we will all be here together celebrating with the same class."
Arcelia shared that she saw graduation reflected with "so many emotions."
She used the speech as an opportunity to thank all who contributed to her success.
She reflected on the first freshman rally where they were silent and scared. "Suddenly, in a flash we're wearing crowns, capes, we're waving the Ceres flag with so much pride and we made the Ceres cheer our very own."
"Class of 2014, let's prove that we are ‘the' class. Among us I see future firefighters, future teachers, future doctors, future scientists, future policemen. Whatever you decide to do, do it with passion. Do something that scares you every day. Have courage. Take a challenging course or talk to that one person you're dying to meet. When everyone and everything is telling you ‘no,' show them that ‘yes' indeed a right. Make sacrifices - sacrifices that are investments in a hopeful future. If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door. Don't shoot too far when you look at your future because you might miss the goals beside you. Whenever you do reach the top, don't forget your roots. Be abundant but measure success by the amount of lives you inspire, not the amount of money you make. Be confident. In the words of Shane Koyczan, ‘Be the weed growing through the cracks in cement, beautiful because it doesn't know it's not supposed to grow there. Be a wild flower.' Congratulation class of 2014, this is only the beginning."
Principal Linda Stubbs addressed the graduates and said she was supposed to "leave you with some profound words of wisdom, advice to live by, words that will have a lasting impact on you. You may not know it yet but you've had those inspiring words every day for the last 180 days. Here it goes: ‘It's a great day to be a Bulldog.'"
She followed by saying "being a Bulldog is so much more than just a catchy phrase, it's who we are and it is who we will always be." Stubbs than recounted the high school journey starting from freshman orientation.
Stubbs asked students to reflect on two questions: "What have you done over the past four years to make people remember you?" and "How have you made other people feel." She reflected how the class helped others, started clubs on campus or came alongside others to make them feel accepted and welcomed on campus.
The principal reminded the sea of graduates that formal education is not over for most. She noted that seven percent of the graduates were off to the military, 45 percent are off to a community or vocational colleges and 31 percent are off to a four-year university.
"Yeah, that's really good," said Stubbs. "The future looks bright because you have chosen to get involved. You have chosen to take advantage of the things that have been offered to you and you have chosen to make a difference in your life and in the lives of others. People will remember you because of the way you have made them feel. You truly have met the challenges Keith (Hawkins) gave you four years ago. Nicely done class of 2014."
Dr. Scott Siegel, the superintendent of the Ceres Unified School District, presented the class and turned them over to CUSD Board of Trustees President Betty Davis who started the awarding of diplomas.
The students left the stadium to the song "Clouds That Sail In Heaven" played by the CHS wind ensemble.