To the traditional tune of “Pomp and Circumstance,” 91 Winters High School seniors — girls in white and boys in red — paraded onto Dr. Sellers Field on the evening of Thursday, June 1, entering as students and leaving as graduates, following speeches, accolades and much love and appreciation from friends and family in the audience.
The ceremony began with a greeting from Winters High School Principal Nicole Reyherme.
“Congratulations in making this milestone,” said Reyherme. “May it be the first step on your journey of perpetual growth.”
Senior Class President Ashley Drummond came to the podium next and challenged her classmates to “strive for success in whatever you do.”
“The future lies in our hands,” said Drummond. “Let’s make the world a better place for the generations to come.”
Nathan Guerrero, co-president for the senior class, mentioned the many groups that excelled at Winters High School, including sports teams, the robotics team, the band and the visual arts students, and thanked his teachers, the staff and his parents for all this success.
“Hold tight to the memories and never let them go,” said Guerrero.
The AFS students, Marie Anderer from Germany and Enrico Ditta from Italy, both thanked their Winters host parents and AFS coordinator Bobbie Greenwood.
Anderer said her great dream was to come to the U.S., and coming to Winters made her dream come true. Ditta admitted to having some struggles with English and getting teased a bit, but said that was mitigated by the many friends he made and noted that his English did improve over the course of the year.
“I look around and I have something of everyone inside of me, and everyone has something of me inside them. We will be together forever,” said Ditta, ending his speech in true American teenager fashion by turning around right on the stage and taking a cell phone selfie with the group of graduates behind him.
Trustee Rudolph Muldong took to the podium next, with a shout of “I love you, Dad” coming from his son, Devon, who was amongst the graduates. Muldong noted that he was the keynote speaker for this same class during their 8th grade commencement.
“Most of you made it — that’s a good thing,” said Muldong.
He offered the class an acronym for success going forward: EARN.
“Engage — engage the world around you. Disconnect and talk to people. Achieve — acheive the goals you set for yourself. Reflect — reflect on the choices you’ve made and will continue to make. Navigate — navigate the challenges of life and don’t let anything stop you.”
Beloved eighth grade science teacher Laurie Helm gave the staff address, to much cheering and applause from the seniors, and talked about the things she knows now that she wishes she’d known when she was graduating from high school: “Hold onto your good friends — they’re priceless. Be true to the person you were meant to be and amazing things will happen to you. Read books.
“Spend time with your parents and grandparents… write down your grandmother’s recipes; sit down with your grandfather and ask lots of questions. Write down their stories — you think you’re going to remember them, but you might not.
“Wear your seatbelt. Take time to ask questions and listen. Live in the moment, and take in this moment right now. Find your passion. Choose a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”
Helm closed by saying, “I believe this class will make the world a better place,” and noting that she’d told this class as they left middle school, “Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you have. I wish you both. Keep learning and laughing.”
Twin sisters (but not identical, they noted) Andrea and Trinidad Santos gave the valedictory address, representing the group of 10 that were valedictorians, which besides themselves, included Danté Panattoni, Elidia Palmerin, Lizbeth Mendoza-Leon, Michelle Mora, Gabi Svozil, Sarah Stone, Nathan Guerrero and Kaitlyn O’Neil.
“Our choices are our choices,” said Andrea, who will attend UC Davis in the fall. “Regret changes nothing. It only makes the brightness wane. Live your dreams and let nothing stop you.”
Trinidad, who will be going to Princeton in the fall, spoke of individuality even though the seniors were all dressed identically, and standing up and sitting down in unison.
“Despite our differences, we all have something in common: We have persevered and survived high school,” said Trinidad. “Be brave and don’t look back. Class of 2017, congratulations and felicidades.”
Next came the awarding of coveted scholarships. The Doug Baldridge award, named for a Winters student who died in 1963 after a football injury, and awarded to a student who is an outstanding athlete and leader, went to Nathan Guerrero. The Hugh Randolph Scholarship, named after a former history and government teacher who passed away in 1984, was presented to Sarah Stone.
With that, it was time for Superintendent Todd Cutler to certify the Class of 2017, and for the seniors to move their tassels from the right to the left, and officially become graduates. With cheers and applause, the grads filed out to the end of the football field for a simultaneous cap toss, and friends and loved ones flooding out to congratulate them with flowers, balloons, hugs and kisses, as the sun began to set over Dr. Sellers Field and on the graduates’ high school careers.