For the first time since March of 2020, the Class of 2021 were all on campus as an entire class to celebrate their commencement from Summit Charter Collegiate Academy on Thursday.

In a school year that was anything but normal, Summit saw 90 seniors walk across the stage to receive their high school diploma. Eight of those students had also received their associates degree from Porterville College just a few weeks earlier.

Graduates were accompanied onto the field by the traditional pomp and circumstance recorded by the Summit band. Students and their families were then welcomed by Summit principal, Martin Medina, who introduced the first speaker of the night, ASB president Clarissa Barboza. 

Barboza thanked the administration for working hard to make an in person graduation possible. Despite their high school journey ending, Barboza reminded her fellow graduates bigger and better things are ahead. 

Next, Burton School District board of trustees president Jay Rice delivered his speech. Rice expressed his pride in the students on making it through their years of school and wished them much wealth in all aspects of their life. He told the graduates “Although mistakes might be made from time to time, learn from them, always continue to work hard and be true to yourself.”  

Medina then introduced the Class of 2021 Valedictorian Noah Wiese and Salutatorian Marco Vilog. Vilog then addressed his fellow students and thanked Medina and Academic Counselor Danielle Aguilar for all of their hard work and dedication to the students and their families. Vilog, a Filipino immigrant who came to the United States just 5 years ago and knew little english, gave a special “thank you” to his sister and brother in law for their encouragement and ultimate sacrifice to get him to where he is today.

Vilog went on to congratulate his fellow students for graduating from “Zoom University.” “We’re so excited to finally get out of high school and start our lives. Whether we’re going off to a university, community college, vocational school or anything else, the most important part is, we will go off and make a change in the world”. 

After the recognition of senior honors, awards and scholarships Summit senior of the year, Ebella Ortiz, addressed her fellow students. Ortiz acknowledged how rough this past year has been but exclaimed how proud she was of her graduating class for getting through it together.

We finished this year strong with our heads up high.” Ortiz asked her fellow seniors to “take these last few moments and look at the seniors around you. Now close your eyes and reflect on the last 4 years and remember to encourage yourself to be outgoing, be crazy, take chances, be bold and reckless….but not too reckless. And live your life!” She then shouted, “YOU MATTER” to the SCHS staff, teachers, and administration. 

Charter board president Chris Craven spoke next and offered his sincere congratulations to each member of the graduating class. “Today you have reached a milestone and achievement in your young lives that is worthy of celebration. High school is over and a bright future awaits you.

You, students and staff alike, have persevered, endured and made it to the finish line together. You found a way to succeed and for that we salute you.”

As the graduation came to a close, Medina addressed the audience, taking time to recognize the support of the Burton School District board of Trustees and Superintendent Sergio Mendoza. Medina went on to recognize the teachers and staff who have dedicated themselves to the success of the students.

He then spoke directly to the Class of 2021 acknowledging their accomplishments are more amazing due to the circumstances that faced them. Medina gave his closing statement, “This class is unique not just because of what they have accomplished academically, but it is also important to know how they accomplished it. Many of them have been together since kindergarten, others since middle school, others at the beginning of high school, and they have become one big Summit family.

They learned to take great care of each other. In an era when it has become easy for us to focus on individual needs, the Class of 2021 chose to stick together and be strong together.”

All 90 Summit’s students partook in the traditional transfer of the tassel from the right to the left of their cap, to signify their accomplishment of graduating high school. As their journey with Summit came to an end with the tassel moving to the opposite side of their cap, their journey in life is just about to start. But as always, “Once a Bear, always a Bear.” 

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