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Ceres High graduates receive diplomas in sizzling heat
Leilah Elsumeri grad
Leilah Elsumeri was jubilant after receiving her Ceres High School diploma during the Thursday evening ceremony in Bulldog Stadium. - photo by Photo courtesy of Ceres Unified School District

The senior class of 2024 left behind their four years at Ceres High School Thursday evening, sent off by warm wishes from family and friends who braved broiling triple-digit temperatures.

The 377 graduates filed into Bulldogs’ athletic stadium to the familiar tune of “Pomp & Circumstance” played by the bands of Ceres High. 

Board members Hugo Molina, Brian de la Porte, Dave McConnell, Cynthia Ruiz, Faye Lane, Valli Wigt and Lourdes Perez took turns presenting diplomas.

Principal Rita Menezes recognized Supt. Denise Wickham who was attending her last graduation at Ceres High School as she is retiring.

“Seniors, I would like to start out saying that you should be proud of all of your accomplishments and achievements over the past four years – I know I am,” said Senior Class President Natalie Horton. “Today we get to celebrate with one another as we step into the next chapter of our lives.”

She said the classmates chipped in funds for a class gift – money that will go toward sound system improvements in the Phil de la Porte Gym.

Salutatorian Gabriel Sandoval Jimenez delivered remarks. He told his fellow classmates that “the competitive environment you guys fostered allowed all of us to achieve our dreams and the bonds we created can never be broken regardless of how many miles may be between us.”

He thanked his sisters for their insight into the school experience and his parents.

“Now I won’t go into detail about how you came to this country,” Jimenez spoke directly to his parents, “although I’m sure some of the audience might already know. You left your home country in Mexico. You traveled to one that certainly holds its fair amount of judgement towards people like us and pretended to understand English solely to provide opportunities beyond your imagination to your children. I cannot possibly convey how much you two mean to me but I hope my hard working past four years can your life better, even if it’s just a little bit.”

Jimenez noted the class has “truly been through a lot,” mentioning how it started out high school on a computer rather than in-person and we had to endure the missing cancel crisis thanks to TikTok “and more importantly we had to stand by powerless as the prices of our beloved Hot Cheetos rose – it’s like $3 for a normal bag of chips now.”

He also noted how 83 percent of students in the class are from economically disadvantaged households and facing uncertainties that “push our mental threshold yet we still manage every single day, not focused on the barriers that hold us back, rather the way we continue to strive for better.”

Valedictorian Andrea Rodriguez focused on her love for the stars and likened the class of 2024 to the skies.

“I’m incredibly grateful to have been stitched into the sky with you to form our own constellation,” said Rodriguez. “At times some of us were streaking through. Some were the brightest we’ve ever been and some of us were dim. Our positions were permanent but we moved in tangent. We were changing, growing first of excitement and hope.”

She offered her thanks for those who fostered her and her classmates, as well as parents.

“I’d like to tell you one more thing I love about the stars,” Rodriguez continued. “Stars hold themselves up. Their own gravity secures their spots in the sky. A giant ball of flame held up by its own will. To my peers, the one person that was there the entire time was you throughout this journey – you held yourself up. The reason you are before me today is your adverse, your resilience and your ambition. Be proud of yourself. You deserve it.”

Principal Menezes asked the class to remember all the prior classes of graduates “who are out there making a difference in the world.

“In about 10 minutes you will be officially joining the ranks of Ceres High School alumni and this place, high school, will become part of your past. Ceres High – the campus, the buildings, the people – have all been part of your journey. From the moment you stepped onto campus as freshmen, wandering the halls, wondering why in the world Room 410 is across from 43 – trust me, we’ve all been there – to uploading your English essay at exactly 11:59 and hoping that your internet doesn’t crash, your time at Ceres High has shaped you. We each leave an impression on each other and in turn you have left your mark on Ceres High School.”

Menezes asked students to “be relentless, be leaders, be fearless, be the person that people notice, stand up for what’s right, be a problem solver, be a Bulldog. Have the courage to chase your dreams and find the strength to overcome any obstacles.”

She shared a thought she heard when she was younger that stuck with her.

“There’s no such thing as a bad decision. In fact, the decisions that you make are neither good nor bad. Rather every decision that you make will either make you move closer to who you want to be or further away from that vision.”

She said graduates have the potential to “be anyone.”

Andrea Rodriguez val
Ceres High School class of 2024 valedictorian Andrea Rodriguez focused on her love for the stars and likened the class of 2024 to the skies. - photo by Photos courtesy of Ceres Unified School District
Gabriel Sandoval Jimenez
Salutatorian Gabriel Sandoval Jimenez delivers his remarks to Ceres High's graduating seniors and the audience. - photo by Photo courtesy of Ceres Unified School District
Caps in air CHS
Members of the Ceres High School senior graduating class of 2024 tossed their caps in the air at the end of Thursday’s commencement exercises. - photo by Photo courtesy of Ceres Unified School District
Natalie Horton speaks
Senior Class President Natalie Horton speaks at the graduation ceremony. - photo by Photo courtesy of Ceres Unified School District