LINDSAY — Whatever Friday Night Lights has been held over the past year-plus has been extremely limited and certainly not the same.
But Lindsay High's Class of 21 had one last chance to experience their version of Friday Night Lights during their graduation ceremony on Friday at Frank Skadan Stadium.
The graduates walked through the Lindsay Cardinals tunnel as they entered the stadium and then were able walk across the field turf down a middle aisle where the audience was seated so their loved ones could receive an up close look and take pictures and videos. They then proceeded up to the bleachers where they took their place under the Hal Munter Press Box.
After the graduates took their place, graduate Fernando Esquivel II led everyone on the Pledge of Allegiance. The Lindsay High Senior Honors Guitar Group then played a rendition of the National Anthem reminiscent from the movie “McFarland USA.”
LHS principal George Tapanes then reminded the graduates “you are the first class to be up in the stadium,” referring to the graduates sitting in the bleachers. Tapanes then told the class you know what that means, since the graduates were wearing red and white, it was time for the red and white wave and the graduates gladly obliged, doing the wave.
“You rock,” Tapanes told the class. “No, you rock Mr. Tap,” yelled out one of the graduates in response.
Tapanes said when school resumed in August he thought “we would be able to resume a fairly normal school year. But that's not how it went down.”
Tapanes noted all the major activities the class missed but also the every day activities of high school the class missed such as “you weren't able to hang out on campus with your friends.”
He noted it would be more than a year before the class would resume in-person instruction as students didn't return to the classroom until April.
“But it's not the whole story,” Tapanes added.
He noted this class became the first ever to play football in the spring and outdoor volleyball. He also noted Lindsay High was the only school in Tulare County to participate in every sport in the spring. He also noted other firsts done by the Class of 21, including holding the first LHS CESPYs.
“Wow, class of 21, I'm impressed,” said Tapanes about the graduates' accomplishments. “This beautiful story is just beginning.”
After Tapanes, Esquivel gave the Spirit of LHS speech. Esquivel noted as a low income, Chicano, LGBTQ-+ student he knew would have adversity to overcome. He also talked about dealing with depression and anxiety.
But he said in his graduation speech from eighth grade four years ago, he said he was going to the University of Southern California to major in journalism. “I continued to fight to make my dream a reality,” he said.
Esquivel became the ASB President and finished fourth in the class with a 4.26 grade point average. And he's attending USC where he will major in journalism as he said he's going to “become part of the Trojan family.”
Tapanes went through the impressive list of future plans for the graduates which included Cal Poly Pomona, Chico State, Cal State Bakersfield, Cal State Dominguez Hills, Fullerton State, Sacramento State, San Jose State, Fresno State, UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara, UCLA, Stanford Fresno Pacific, Boise State, the University of Nevada, Portland State, Porterville College, College of the Sequoias, Fresno City College, Reedley College, Santa Barbara City College, Micro College and San Joaquin Valley College along with five branches of the military — Navy, Air Force, Army, National Guard and the Marines.
After Esquivel assistant principal Vicki Leoni presented the California Scholarship Federation members. Then the LHS Advanced Show Choir performed “You Are The Reason.”
Assistant Principal Dr. Kenneth Spencer then presented the Distinguished Scholars — the 19 students who finished with a G.P.A. Of 4.0 or higher. Litzy Gomez was the class Valedictorian with a 4.41 G.P.A. and Alexis Leon was the Salutatorian with a 4.39 G.P.A.
Both Gomez and Leon talked about being part of a small, tight-knit community and school. “It was a true honor to spend my high school years with such an extraordinary group of Cardinals,” she said.
Leon had to overcome her own experience of adversity. Leon suffered a ruptured appendectomy 12 hours before the graduation ceremony. But she was able to make it to the ceremony after surgery.
Leon also had already graduated with an associates degree from COS before receiving her diploma.
“We are so fortunate to be part of such a great community as Lindsay,” Leon said.