Largest graduating class ever took center stage Thursday evening
The largest class to walk in a graduation ceremony at Citrus High School made their way down the aisle Thursday, May 30, during the 2019 commencement ceremony. All 105 graduates arrived to Citrus High School with bright eyes, ready to grab their diplomas and take the world head on.
As soon as “Pomp and Circumstance” began to play over the loudspeakers, Larissa Rojas led the single file line of graduates to the stage, and took her place at the podium to welcome the large audience and lead the Pledge of Allegiance.
Citrus High School Principal Scott Braden excused Rojas to take her seat amongst her peers, and stepped to the podium to begin his welcome speech.
“On behalf of all of us here at Citrus High School, thank you for sharing in this very special occasion with us,” said Braden. “Tonight we get to celebrate not 10, not 20, not 30, not 50, not 82 like two years ago, but 105 graduates, which is a school record in contemporary history.”
Braden recognized many dignitaries in attendance, including the Governing Board of Trustees President Lillian Durbin, District Superintendent Nate Nelson, Citrus High teachers and staff and the parents of the graduates.
“Seniors — or graduates for that matter, because we have about eight juniors that are graduating — this is your night,” said Braden. “You have worked very hard to reach this day. We are so proud of your accomplishments. Many of you have turned your cinder blocks into stepping stones. You've turned your obstacles into opportunities, and you've pushed yourself to achieve your goals, and tonight we honor you and salute you for becoming high school graduates.”
Braden introduced Ines Rivera, the dean of counseling, to present several scholarships and awards to a handful of the graduating students.
The first scholarship awarded came from the Porterville Women's Club for the amount of $500. This scholarship went to Larissa Rojas.
The Emblem Club scholarship of $250 went to Takaya Castro.
After Rivera finished her scholarship presentations, Brian Winningham was asked to approach the podium on behalf of the Tule River Tribal Council.
“I won't make this too fast because this is a very special night,” said Winningham. “On behalf of our Tribal Council and all of the tribal members, in support of higher education and in the honor and tradition of helping our students become their best, we present to them a $500 gift as an award for their graduation, and a scholarship that provides for ten semesters at the California college of their choosing.”
Three of the graduates were asked to come forward — Kaitlyn Gibson, Melanie Hunter and Michael Manuel — and they were presented with tribal blankets that had been blessed by the tribe and certificates of accomplishment.
As Winningham exited the stage, Rivera stepped to the microphone again to recognize 12 students who received Student of the Month awards over the course of the school year. Each recognized student wore a medal around their neck, signifying the importance of their award.
Once the 12 distinguished students took their sets again, Braden announced that it was time to begin calling names for diplomas.
Each student's name was called, and the teacher behind the podium shared some special words about each graduate. Some of the teachers who introduced the graduates were Kurt Espinoza, Kathi Barraza, Steve Curbow and Kim Shaffer.
As their names were called, each graduate walked up to the stage and were congratulated by Lillian Durbin, Juan Figueroa Jr., Nate Nelson and Ines Rivera, before making their way across the stage to shake hands with Braden, who proudly handed out diplomas.
After all of the names had been called, and kind words spoken, the graduates were released to their overjoyed families where onslaughts of hugs and kisses continued the night's celebration.