108 seniors from Harmony Magnet Academy’s Class of 2021 graduated at Spartan Stadium in a smaller scale and more personal ceremony where parents, family and friends sat on the lawn while taking pictures as their seniors walked to the Spartan Stadium stands while Pomp and Circumstance was played by the HMA orchestra, led by Zander Smith.
Following the Presentation of Colors by the Porterville Military Academy, and the Pledge of Allegiance led by Jasius Taggs, HMA Principal Jeff Brown gave the welcome speech.
“Welcome one and all. A big thank you to the PUSD family: Nate Nelson, Superintendent and his team, the Pathway Team, the governing board, who is represented here tonight by Pete Lara and Donna Berry, to the faculty and staff, and last but not least our parents, who found a way. Thank you.
“During this past year, I have discovered at least one thing….We ultimately are not in control, even though the choices we make and the effort we show, does forge a path. In the end, all we can really do is strive for perfection in everything we do. If we do that, we will not be sorry, even when we fall short. My hope is that you will continue to look beyond obstacles and have the belief that you can achieve if you only believe. Remember, it is hard to defeat a person who never gives up.
“From all of the staff and faculty at Harmony…Fight On!”
Senior Sol Arroyo Jacuinde translated Brown’s speech into Spanish.
ASB executive students Lena Bennett, Paulina Cemo, Leila Juarez Haro and Taggs were introduced by Brown, and they all gave speeches at the podium, exhorting the graduates to pay attention to their opportunities, as well as thanking their parents, peers, and teachers. They spoke about the challenges of learning during the pandemic.
Taggs spoke about the pandemic year and admitted he didn’t actually expect to have a graduation ceremony, saying, “Over the past year, we've all experienced many small bumps in our lives, and some of us have even tripped, fell, hit our heads, and continued falling, but that's OK. Among us students, we've especially had hard times keeping up with the work and coming to terms with graduating. I especially, didn't expect to actually graduate,
“I thought that was a myth, and just another piece of fiction. Now we stand here awaiting the next stages in our life which brings joy to many of us, but disappoints us, because we have to say goodbye to all the people we made memories with. I'd like to say a special goodbye to all of the great teachers and staff of both Harmony and Strathmore, as well as my fellow graduates. I will most definitely miss you.”
Taggs introduced 10 valedictorians: Jessica Alvarez Barajas, Sol Arroyo-Jacuinde, Jazmyn Collins, Sameera Hussain, Anushka Larson, Abigail Miller, Jorge Ramirez, Ariana Robles, Ryan Rusch, and Taylor Simonich.
The valedictorians gave speeches, where they congratulated all graduates, honored and thanked their parents, friends, and teachers, and spoke of the difficulties learning to work in a situation when all their events were canceled, and they had to depend on a different type of support system. Arroyo-Jacuinde spoke in Spanish and English. Some thanked God for their success, while others, thanked their parents and extended families for their support in reaching their goals.
Rusch spoke about graduates having to learn to improvise and persevere through crises large and small, be it natural disasters or world-wide pandemics. Like their teachers and high school during the past year, they needed to learn to persevere and improvise.
“In order to succeed in the post- secondary and working world,” he said, “graduates would have to persevere in situations, and there isn’t always a right or straight forward answer.
“Life is an open world adventure” and their paths aren’t set out for them, he said. “There isn’t always a universal guide on the internet for how to proceed and for such situations, what do we do? We improvise.
I wish you all, you hardworking students and even more hardworking parents and staff, the best of luck in the upcoming academic year. It’s been an honor to graduate from the best high school in the Valley.”
Doreen Klopshinske from Michigan, said, “I’m so very proud of valedictorian Abby Miller. We are enjoying visiting her and family in sunny California.”
Miller’s Uncle Mike, also from Michigan, said, “What really makes Abby stand out is her insatiable desire to excel.”
Alfonso and Carrie Mendoza and family said they were so thrilled to see their daughter Chelsey Mendoza graduate, and, “We wish the best for her.”
“We are so proud of Noah Weatherford,” said Nicole Wynd. “He’s a great, kind, and respectful, and well-rounded. And he’s going into the Navy where he will be in the nuclear engineering program and study aerospace engineering.”
Richard Garcia, the grandfather of graduate Beneda Loya, said, “She’s a very smart, special young girl, and she’d worked very hard to graduate. She has a very bright future ahead of her.”