Co-valedictorians for Cesar Chavez Jr. High in 2015, best friends Letzi Esparza and Genesis Ochoa shared the same distinguished honor for Ceres High School’s 107th graduating class.
“Four years ago, we walked the stage as junior high valedictorians, and here we are again walking the stage together as Ceres High valedictorians,” Ochoa said. “I am so blessed to have shared this high school experience with you and I am going to miss you so much.”
“I could not be more proud of her (Genesis) and all that she has accomplished,” said Esparza. “Together being first-generation students, we have accomplished what Ceres High had not seen in a long time, two valedictorians, and that sincerely deserves recognition as we go on representing Ceres High. Although it was a struggle, fighting for an abundance of AP classes, we did it, together.”
Esparza, Ochoa and their 343 senior classmates closed one chapter and began another during Friday evening’s commencement exercises at Bulldog Stadium.
“Yesterday, we heard the bell that has rung for the last four years, ring for the last time,” said Esparza, who will attend UCLA. “Although graduating high school is an important milestone in our lives, it is only that, a milestone. This is barely the beginning of a difficult journey that awaits us. Thank you and good luck to us all.”
“Today marks the beginning of something new and the end of something great,” said Ochoa, who will continue her education at UC Santa Barbara. “Whether we feel as if we are ready or not, it’s time to leap. The flaws we possess should not hold us back from this big leap. Be confident that the people in our lives like our teachers, mentors, and parents have directed us in the right path and have helped us discover our strengths, talents and abilities that will launch us into our future.”
Linda Stubbs, Ceres High’s principal for the past 10 years, gave her final commencement welcome address. She will fill the same position at Argus and Endeavor High School in Ceres.
“This year, I asked you to share your best memories of Ceres High School and I found you’ve experienced many events that had an impact on you, events that made you proud to be a Bulldog, and events that have created memories that will follow you for a lifetime,” Stubbs said. “I also discovered that many of you have the best words of wisdom and inspiration, words that are much more impactful than anything I could ever say.”
“It did not surprise me that not one of you wrote that your best memories were meeting the daily objective or showing proficiency on Standard RI.11-12.2,” she added. “No, all of your best memories were focused on emotions, how you felt, how you made other people feel, a feeling of belonging and a sense of comradery as you did things together. I am proud that CHS has helped you realize that what matters most in life is people.”
Ceres High’s drama department holds a special spot in Salutatorian Karina Jimenez’s heart. It was her “safe haven in high school.” It was the place where “she could destress, have fun, and most importantly have a voice.” It was a place where “beautiful memories were created.”
“There were days in which there seemed to be no sun, just a cloud of self-doubt,” Jimenez said. “There were days in which we stayed up too late or pulled all-nighters just to finish an assignment. There were days that caused us to question whether or not we could make it through high school. On top of our academic struggles, we also faced financial obstacles, family issues, friendship complications, or even all three. Regardless of all that was going on in our lives, we managed to make it to this point. I commend you all for that.”
“Only we know how difficult, but fun this journey has been,” Associated Student Body President Krishan Malhotra added after praising his parents and sisters for offering their support throughout high school. “We’ve grown tremendously and we will continue to grow from each experience we have. I wish each of you all the success in the world, and I truly have love for every single one of you.”
Forty-six percent of Ceres High’s graduating class had a cumulative GPA of 3.0 to 3.99 and 34 students earned a cumulative GPA of 4.0 or better.
“Over half this class is graduating with an A or B grade point average,” Stubbs said. “That is incredible. Eighty-four percent of you have already committed to furthering your education. Thirty-seven percent have been accepted into a four-year university. Forty-four percent will be attending a community college or trade school and nearly 3 percent are joining the military. You are an academically driven group that will continue to create memories for others, maybe even memories that change lives.”
“Class of 2019, I challenge you to use the education you have received to become more than just successful,” she added. “I challenge you to use your education to become significant and I challenge you to have a profound effect on those around you. Follow your dreams and make others remember you.”