As Pomp and Circumstance played, thousands of families and friends cheered and called out to their seniors dressed in blue and gold as they walked through Rankin Stadium to their seats in the middle of the stadium.
Monache High School Principal Dr. Eric Barba greeted them, and congratulated all 414 seniors, after the presentation of the Colors by Porterville Military Academy Cadet Corps, as the National Anthem was sung by the MHS Chamber Choir. He spoke in both English and Spanish.
Barba offered a heartfelt prayer for anyone who has lost a loved one during the past year and a half, before he welcomed everyone to the Monache 2021 graduation ceremony.
He spoke about the many accomplishments of the graduating class of 2021, students who have persisted through incredible obstacles, and how proud their parents must be.
Speaking directly to parents, he said, “You have much to be proud of. All your hard work has paid off as you see your child cross this stage.”
“Seniors, All I can say is Wow! Students started at MHS four years ago, and life was good, he said, with all the rallies, tradition'ns, concerts and activities on campus. Then suddenly everything changed for everyone, and there was shock and confusion, and an empty campus and silence.
“Then the silence turned to hope, empathy, and innovation.” And the graduating seniors experienced a Renaissance of activities that will allow “them to take the bull by the horns accomplish anything they choose to do,” Barba said.
“You have personally made me very proud to be your principal. Good luck and thank you.”
Senior Class President Tori Moore gave the welcoming speech, which was translated into Spanish by senior Jennifer Rodriguez Ochoa.
Moore said the graduates of class 2021 are a tribute to all the people who helped them attend high school, and supported them, or picked them up from school. Now it's “our turn” to hold our caregivers hands and remind them “that everything will be OK.”
They're moving on to fulfill their lives and dreams, she said, and she thanked “each and every one” of the parents or loved ones who supported the graduating seniors “with their love and dedication.”
Barba introduced 17 valedictorians — Hassoon Sarwar, Sarah Mendez-Jimenez, Rojeny Guillermo, Jenna Keller, Tori Moore, Madyn Shaffer, Kimberly Gonzalez-Cardenas, Addison Sampietro, Ava Lobue, Jarnett Asuncion, Angie Tran, Damian Hernandez, Fayth Sirivong, Nicholas Martinez, John Felix, Nathanael Garcia, and Daniel Andres Vigil.
The valedictorians gave their speeches, and reflected on what a strange year and half it’s been, with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic during Spring break and the shock of not going back to school, and how they learned to work remotely, even though it was hard, they learned “life is too short” to not enjoy it.
Important life lessons make everything count, and get involved in whatever you choose to do, they said. They said they were grateful for everything, and thanked their parents, families, teachers, counselors and friends for supporting them through all their difficulties and obstacles and words most often used were ‘resilience’ and ‘perseverance” during many of the speeches. But they all looked forward to what the future has in store, and are proud of their achievements, especially in the past year and of half of uncertainties.
They said they also learned not to take anything for granted, to appreciate the little things in life.
They spoke about life being like a marathon, not a sprint, and to keep your eye on the finish line, that it's full of challenges so you need to achieve sustainable work habits and relationships.
Damian Hernandez spoke about using language as a tool to create positive or negative consequences. He suggested the graduates use their language to “craft a more just and equal world,” whether in art, the workplace, protesting, or voting.
He said, “Never underestimate the power that your voice holds,” and “we are the generation coming forth to facilitate change, and to make that change, we must transform our language into action.”
The valedictorians also spoke about striving to leave a meaningful impact on the world or the community, or even a single person, all holding immense value.
Martinez thanked his mother and family, and said his resilience comes from knowing his mother will support him even from far away.
ASB President and valedictorian Sampietro gave the Farewell Speech, which was translated into Spanish by Andrea Fernandez.
“Today, in our upside-down world, let us heed the advice of an upside-down author, Theodor Seuss Geisel, or Dr. Seuss.” She said, “When something bad happens, you have three choices. You can either let it define you, let it destroy you, or you can let it strengthen you.
“Graduation recognizes an entire body of admirable students whose achievements throughout high school, during a pandemic, did not erase or destroy their spirits and talents.
“We learned the value of human connections and that social bonds are remade, not forgotten, and we learned that family and friendships endure, and a good Wifi signal . . . does not.
“I advise you all not to lose belief in yourself. You all worked hard despite adversity in every corner.
“The class of 2021 won’t be defined by what we lost to the virus, but instead to what we make of it.”
Among the graduates there were 39 California Scholastic Federation Sealbearers and there were also many students who achieved a grade point average of 4.0 and higher, who received outstanding scholarships and awards, who were recognized by Barba.
The seniors then picked up a diploma and paused for a photo as the crowd once again clapped, cheered, shouted, and took photographs from the stands.
Later in the ceremony, once their tassels were turned from right to left, and caps were thrown in the air, graduates dispersed to family and celebrations
Jessica Sainz, grandmother of senior Jiselle Batres, said, “I’m so proud of her.”
“It’s an honor to be graduating with the Class of 2021,” said Keller. “I’m so proud of all our accomplishments.”