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CHS ushers 358 into the world
Celeste Tamayo and Sarah Gulzaman
Celeste Tamayo and Sarah Gulzaman take a selfie minutes before marching onto the CHS football field to receive their high school diplomas. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

Graduates of the Ceres High School class of 2016 aren't likely to forget Thursday evening purely because of the milestone of their graduation. They'll remember dripping with sweat in the near triple-digit heat.

At the start of graduation at 7:30 p.m., Bulldog Stadium was furnace blasted by the sun at 97 degrees. That didn't dampen the enthusiasm of parents and family members in the bleachers who were wielding cell phone cameras, balloons, confetti blaster and forbidden air horns.

Baylee Carlin, ASB president, welcomed the crowd while Senior Class President Maya Ramirez presented the class gift. Through a series of fundraisers, the class came up with $2,687 towards an awning for the campus amphitheater.

Salutatorian Sydney Elness challenged her classmates to "Be phenomenal or be forgotten."

"I hope that all of the memories made within these four walls of the school are never forgotten, because they are what makes you the person you are today," said Elness.

"Now that our time has come to an end, do not look back and think that these were the best four years of your life. I challenge you instead to look forward. I challenge you to go out into this world and begin to make your own movie. This movie will not be funny all the time, there will be times of sadness, there will be times of fear - yet all of these scenes will be eclipsed by the times of great joy, the times of happiness and the times of pride. One of those beautiful moments of pride, is tonight. Tonight we say goodbye to class of 2016, and for many of us we say hello to class of 2020! As the great Andrew Bernard once said, ‘I wish there was a way to know you're in the good old days before you've actually left them.' Bulldogs, make the most of every one of those moments, so in the end, when you look back at the movie you have created, you can hold your head high because you know that you did everything you could to create the best movie you could. Remember: the harder life chokes you, the more you should want to breathe. Let the doubts of others fuel your dreams."

Stephanie Haidar, the class valedictorian, opened her speech with attempts at humor, hoping "my speech will empower at least one person and not put anyone to sleep." She reminded the crowd that the Latin root for graduation is "grad" meaning step and the suffix -ation meaning the action or process of doing something. "Class of 2016, we are taking a step forward in life," said Haidar. "We are going to live in the adult world. We are closing a chapter and starting on a fresh, new page in the book of life. We will be free, independent, and have a new set of opportunities before us."

She shared about the struggles of some well-known historical figures like Thomas Edison who was kicked out of school at the age of seven for asking too many questions only to go on to invent over 1,093 devices. She mentioned Helen Keller who was the first deaf-blind person to receive a Bachelor of Arts degree from Cambridge School for Young Ladies, and later on she developed a writing career and became a social activist. Martin Luther King Jr., she said, "continued to fight for civil rights and equality knowing that his life was on the line. He was violently attacked, arrested, and his home was even bombed by segregationists."

"I mention these well-known individuals to show that they did not let their disappointments or disadvantages get in the way of their goals. They kept swimming against the current of sadness produced by the sea of negativity; they did not let themselves drown, but float! Each one of us has the power to do this!"

She likened life to directing a movie. "Directors do not depend on the audience to create and change their ideas, they do it themselves because they have the right. Be the director of your show - create it, change it, and most importantly do anything necessary to make it what you want it be."

Principal Linda Stubbs bid farewell with the class in a short speech themed, "It's a Great Day to be a Bulldog." She noted that 12 graduates are entering the military, 35 percent are entering a vocational or community college and 33 percent are attending a four-year university.

"...Did you realize that you would learn about yourselves and better understand how this world works?" asked Stubbs of the graduates. "Did you appreciate that you can't travel this road of life alone and did you learn that really what makes us all tick is our love and compassion for each other? Did you recognize that you have wonderful examples of people who use kindness as a means of getting through the day, people who are sitting right next to you?

"I'm pretty sure that nine months ago, you had no idea that any of this would happen. I believe that you thought it would just be one more year of school. Ladies and gentlemen, it wasn't just one more year, it was your senior year of high school and everyday was a great day to be a bulldog."

She admonished students to live up to the class motto of: "To live our life in our own way....To reach for the goals we have set ourselves...To be what we want to be...That is success."

"We all have the power to reach our goals and to be who want to be. But I challenge you to be more than successful. I challenge you to use your education to become significant and I challenge you to have a profound impact on those around you."

Music for the event was furnished by the CHS Wind Ensemble and seniors Sarah Bolden, Kaitlyn Hebb, Makayla Lawrence, Arturo Lopez-Puga, Tristin Lorenzo, Jacqueline Lujan, Dania Medina and David Medina.