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CVHS seniors move on
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Central Valley High School valedictorian Miguel Rodriguez Arias leads his classmates into the school amphitheatre for graduation with salutatorian Giovanni Barajas at his side and salutatorians Patrick Khamvongsod and Daravuth Jordan behind. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

Excited graduates filed into the stadium to the traditional Pomp and Circumstance while friends and families cheered them on in one the most important events of their young lives at Central Valley High School's seventh annual Commencement on Thursday, June 5.

The warm evening did not damper the jubilation felt by the sea of gowned grads as their parents, family members and friends cheered them onto their next phase of life.

Seniors filed into the outdoor amphitheater facing a setting sun as the CVHS band played "Pomp & Circumstance," followed by presentation of colors by the Ceres American Legion Post color guard. The National Anthem was performed by seniors who were part of a chorale group.

The student speakers entertained the crowd with humor and insight into their years in high school, while also keeping their addresses to lengths that were short enough to be interesting and long enough to cover the subjects.

Nicholette Mendez, the senior class president, welcomed the crowd and thanked all for encouraging and supporting her and her classmates.

"We came from the class who was silent at the first rally our freshman year to one of the most spirited, talented and unforgettable classes to walk through the doors at CV," said Mendez. "We may not be in our new school outfits but instead in caps and gowns while once again our parents are snapping pictures and wishing us well as we prepare for the next chapter in our lives. As Dr. Seuss would say, ‘Congratulations! Today is your day. You're off to great places!" Congratulations class of 2014, we did it."

Esteban Villafan delivered the Senior Address, themed "The Past Does Not Define Us" with some parting thoughts.

"The class of 2014 sitting here in these bleachers before you will neither be doctors, nor engineers, nor lawyers, nor anything else," said Villafan. "They will be leaders, innovators, motivators and such. They will be these things instead because someone's occupation does not define them and it won't for us.

"One thing people mistakenly believe is that our past defines us (defines who we are and who we will become). I'm here to say that our past does not define us but instead it helps guide us."

Daniel Lepe performed the senior song, "Farewell," while taking off his grad gown and in moments had his classmates swaying to his passionate delivery.

Francisco Gradilla delivered the Senior Spanish Address entitled, "Belleza."

Salutatorians who did not address the ceremony were Carlos Alfonso, Giovanni Barajas, Anthony Bonales, Marlen Diaz, Talwinder Kaur, Patrick Khamvongsod, Mohak Kumar, Juan Medrano Fregoso, Carina Partida, Braden Rambo, Ravjot Sahota, Daravuth Jordan, Tranjit Singh and Daniela Zepeda.

Special music included Fan Fare and Flourishes by the CVHS band.

In his valedictorian address titled "This Is It," Miguel Rodriguez Arias first thanked all parents in the crowd, and then thanked his classmates.

"Today more than ever you will probably be bombarded by the cliché: ‘Follow the path less traveled! Make a change in society! Be unique!' Well, I say forget that. Do whatever you feel like doing," said the valedictorian. "If it means following the path that everyone else has followed, then so be it. The point is to pursue a dream that brings you joy. So often we are contaminated by the idea that we should pursue innovative, prestigious, unique career paths, that we should be the change in the world. Some say life is too short and must be lived by the day; I prefer to see life as the longest thing you will ever do, we make sure you do what you love.

"We are too young to fully understand all there is to know about life, but old enough to know there is much left to explore. Our thirst for adventure should never be quenched, our curiosity for the unknown never fulfilled. As Steve Jobs once said, ‘Stay hungry. Stay foolish.' As we grow older, do not forget of your imaginative childhood ways, but more so incorporate them into your adulthood. Grasp onto your childhood ambitions, and use them to propel you through the adult world."

After highlighting some of the awards, successes and achievements of the class of 2014, Miguel closed with this thought: "We are composed of more than just talented individuals, we are comprised of visionaries. Each and every one of us has something new to bring to the table, something extraordinary. We're not going to fly away after today, we're going to soar. We're not going to timidly walk into a new world; we're going to embrace it. We are the class of 2014, and we are sure going to let every single person know that after tonight."

He then added that classmates left with a "sense of ambivalence."

"We are glad we finally made it through high school, but are in dismay that it is coming to an end," said Rodriguez Arias. "The truth is, many of us will never see each other again after tonight. This speech will be forgotten within a week. These are the last moments we will share as the Central Valley graduating class of 2014. It is never easy to say goodbye to those you love, which is why I can't seem to fathom the idea of saying goodbye to my class; I love you guys. Yet, as difficult as it may sound, it is what makes this moment that much more memorable. The fact that this moment will never again repeat itself makes it that much more beautiful. The fact that we could die any second makes every moment we live that much more magical. By the words of Dr. Seuss, ‘Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.' Let us embrace the fact that in a couple of hours our lives will turn completely around. Let us use this as a form of only greater embracing every last second we share, because graduating class of 2014, tonight we are young."

Principal Amy Peterman bid farewell to the class, sharing highlights and impacts certain seniors made on her. Ceres Unified School District Superintendent Scott Siegel presented the class, which was accepted by Betty Davis, president of the CUSD Board of Trustees. The seniors then proceeded to the stage on each side to receive their diplomas presented by members of the CUSD Board of Trustees and a handshake or hug from Peterman.
The seniors left the school to the playing of Miley Cyrus's "I Will Always Remember You."

In the event program, 32 CVHS seniors were listed as life members of the California Scholarship Federation and 28 students were listed as National Art Honor Society members. Six seniors - Samantha Castellanos, Ernesto Cuevas, Marlen Diaz, Raul Gontiz, Carina Partida and Marisela Yepez - were recognized as earning FFA State Farmer degrees.

Whitmore Charter High School graduation ceremonies were held Monday, June 3 in the Central Valley High School gymnasium.

A host of Ceres Unified School District graduation ceremonies took place last week.

Whitmore Charter Middle School graduated its eighth-graders on Tuesday, June 3, at the CVHS gymnasium.
Argus and Endeavor highs graduated with Ceres Adult Education on Tuesday, June 3 at the Ceres High School athletic stadium.

Chavez Junior High School graduated its eighth grade class on Wednesday, June 4 at the CVHS Amphitheatre.

Eighth-graders at Mae Hensley Junior High School graduated Thursday on the CHS football field.

Blaker-Kinser Junior High saw its eighth-graders receive diplomas on Wednesday inside the CVHS Amphitheatre.