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Ceres High graduates leave with high hopes
Bianca De Los Reyes
Bianca De Los Reyes shared co-valedictorian honors with fellow Ceres High School senior Vivien Chen. - photo by Courtesy of CUSD

Ceres High School staged a somewhat traditional graduation ceremony this past week with COVID-19 mask and social distancing guidelines in place at Ceres Unified School District Football Stadium.

Friday’s commencement marked the end of a challenging year for the class of 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Students spent the majority of the school year learning from home. Extracurricular activities, including prom and senior homecoming, were also canceled.

“Although the path to this milestone hasn’t been what any of us ever dreamed, there are lessons that we can all walk away with,” said Principal Rita Menezes. “As you reflect on and grow from the experiences of these past 15 months, I hope that you see in yourself the perseverance and commitment that it takes to attain a goal.  I hope you gained a deeper appreciation for who your support system is, who you can really lean on for strength, which relationships you should nurture as you move forward, and perhaps even which ties need to be cut.”

“In what sometimes seemed like the darkest, longest year, you all managed to find ways to shine,” she added. “And I don’t just mean academically. You may have been behind a screen, but I want you to know that you were noticed, you were admired, and you were applauded by the staff of Ceres High School, even if you didn’t realize it … Students, you bring a vibrancy to our school community that cannot be replicated in a digital classroom.  Your absence from campus caused us to reconnect with what is at the heart of what we do. Why we come to work everyday. Why we work so hard to fulfill our duties. Why we choose to work in Ceres.  And that’s you. You make our work meaningful.  Making connections with you, seeing you succeed, and sending you off into the next chapter of life is what brings us joy. The impact that you’ve had on this staff will undoubtedly be a long-lasting one.  What a gift.”

Co-valedictorian Vivien Chen delivered remarks about a most unusual senior year.

“To say our journey was difficult is definitely the biggest understatement of the year,” Chen noted. “We all endured heavy adjustments in a small chunk of our lives but experienced one of the biggest moments in history. However, we didn’t get here alone. To the people alongside us throughout this entire ride, thank you. Starting off with the faculty here at Ceres High, no matter how much we may dread coming to school, your continued efforts to make each day enjoyable allowed us to come out of our shell and connect with one another. Your words and active encouragement have instilled a drive straight to our success. Furthermore, the two most impactful support systems each one of us could ever have—family and friends. To our families, even through all of our mistakes, your unconditional love motivates us even more to reach our highest potential. From the day we began to crawl, to the day we began to run, you’ve always given us the tools for greatness.”

“Covid has pushed us into adulthood and has taught us how to become responsible,” said salutatorian Alizae Vargas. “We’ve had to get jobs to help support our families in financial need, watch over little siblings and battle mental illnesses all while still being a student. All of which has made us grow up and prepare for the hardships that being adults will bring. Not saying that it will all be bad just that that it’s not going to be an easy ride for most of us. But I believe in each and every one of you. Our generation seems to be focused on bringing great change to the world and freedom and equality for everyone. I believe that we are amazing open-minded youth, who will make this place we live on and call home a more positive place, and inspire generations to come to do the same. Let’s spread positivity and actively oppose homophobia, racism and all hate speech. And with that in mind, I hope that you all will choose to pursue your passions and chase your dreams. Do what makes you, yes you – not your parents, sorry guys – happy. What fills you up with joy and makes life worth living. And if you don’t know what that is yet, then I wish that you keep going and don’t stop until you find it. With that being said don’t stress too much, remember to prioritize your health over everything, and as cheesy as it sounds, to leave your mark on this earth because it’s far from perfect.”

“When the world pushed us, we pushed back,” noted Bianca De Los Reyes, co-valedictorian and class president.  “And here we are, cap and gowns, ready to experience what the future holds. It was hard to learn a lot of things in this school year. But if there is one thing that I know that is to be true, it’s that it doesn’t matter what was supposed to happen, it’s about what you’re going to make happen … Don’t let any obstacle keep you from moving forward. So many great things await this class. And if no one else gets the chance to say it to you today, I’d most definitely like to tell my class I’m so extremely proud of you all. There is no limit to what you can accomplish.”

Ceres Unified Supt. Scott Siegel, Deputy Supt. Denise Wickham, Assistant Superintendents Amy Peterman and Dan Pangrazio, and Ceres School Board members Betty Davis, Valli Wigt, Lourdes Perez, Faye Lane, Hugo Molina, Brian de la Porte and Mike Welsh attended Ceres High School’ s graduation.

Ric Campero sang the National Anthem.

ASB President Jasmine Bahia delivered the welcome speech.

Jaden Borba
Ceres High School senior Jaden Borba holds up his CHS diploma in celebration. - photo by Courtesy of CUSD
Ceres High seniors file
Ceres High seniors file into Ceres Unified School District Football Stadium during the start of Friday’s graduation ceremony. - photo by Dale Butler
Brian de la Porte diplomas
Ceres School Board members, including Brian de la Porte, passed out diplomas to Ceres High School grads during Friday’s commencement ceremony. - photo by Courtesy of CUSD