Unable to stage a traditional graduation with family members and friends in attendance due to COVID-19 gathering restrictions, Ceres High School premiered its first-ever virtual ceremony at 7:30 p.m. on YouTube last Thursday.
Filmed by Ceres Unified School District’s technology team, May 11-13, inside Phil de la Porte Gymnasium, the 80-plus-minute commencement video had more than 4,500 views as of Monday night.
Ceres High School had a senior class size of 349 students.
“Please don’t let the circumstances of our times overshadow the bright light of your many and varied accomplishments,” Principal videotaped message. “Despite the way the school year is ending, over half of you have achieved a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Eighty-nine percent of the class of 2020 will be continuing their education at a UC, CSU, community college or trade school. This fall, we will have students attending college as far north as Humboldt State and as far south as UC San Diego. We will have students venturing out of state to colleges in Idaho, Ohio and beyond. Collectively, the class of 2020 will have earned over $100,000 in scholarship money. We are also equally proud of the 11 percent of graduating seniors who have chosen to serve our country and local communities representing every branch of the United States military and the workforce.”
Valedictorian Gurmenjit Bahia, salutatorian Mark Razo, Senior Class President Brandon Lopez and Associated Student Body President Eileen Perez also spoke.
Paige Adams performed the National Anthem.
Bahia talked about the importance of not listening to naysayers while pursuing your dreams. Bahia, who will attend UC Berkeley this fall, also raised social awareness.
“There will be those who will tell you that you will never be able to achieve anything and that you are too worthless to engage in the fruits of success,” said Bahia, who took 13 Advanced Placement classes and had a cumulative grade-point average of 4.520 at Ceres High. “But I am here to tell you that anything is possible. You can do all that you set your mind to regardless of your background. I see a class filled with progressives, humanitarians, reformers and influencers. Today, we are facing a multitude of challenges in a society that lacks equality and is consumed with bigotry and hatred. We live in a world where peaceful protests over issues of racism are countered with systematic violence and hatred while uninformed people protesting with guns are forgiven and systematically justified. Be certain that diversity and knowledge are the key to progression. Racism must be eradicated. The environment must be saved. Education must be further spread. I know these statements are far easier said than done but I know that our class can accomplish such reform as we head out into the world.”
Mark Razo will also continue his education at U.C. Berkeley.
He had a cumulative GPA of 4.457.
Razo took 13 AP courses as well.
“Although these past few months were filled with online Zoom classes and an unnecessary amount of online assignments, it was and still is our sense of togetherness that bonds us in a way that prom and senior ditch day never could,” Razo said. “Of course, it is sad that we missed out on those traditional occasions but those traditions were thrown out the window the minute we got to experience history. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a good one. But thanks to our strong friendships, supportive staff and loving parents, we have been able to endure this unfortunate circumstance while in the prime of our youth. When we have children of our own, we’ll recall the times we had to attend school despite the outbreak of a deadly world virus. And the reason for why they don’t want to go to school will not be excusable. Truth be told, we don’t deserve this. But it happened to us any way. We can only be thankful for the things we did get to experience. And although each one of our high school experiences was different, we’ll look back at the same place—Ceres High School.”
Lopez and Perez will attend U.C. Merced and Stanislaus State, respectively.
“This year’s graduating class is one of many firsts,” Lopez said. “The first class of a new decade. The first class to learn about 9-11 as a historical event. And the first class to have a virtual graduation. Yes, class of 2020 is as unique as it will ever get. And a virus is not going to rob us of all of our accomplishments. I know the whole COVID-19 situation is still hard to fathom but we should focus on what’s in store for all of us. Today’s focus is not this pandemic but rather class of 2020.”
“You don’t have to live anyone else’s story,” he added. “Live in your own 2020 vision. No matter what’s happening around us we must remember to always stay in our lane and follow what we believe in. Whether that be a goal or dream, never lose sight of it. When you think you’re about to give up, push through because your heart is still gripping onto those visions even though you might not be.”
“I know without the constant help and support from our teachers, staff, administration, friends, and especially our parents and family, we would not be where we are now,” Perez stated. “So on behalf of the class of 2020, I’d like to thank you all for all the support we’ve been given these last four years.”