As this year’s graduating class walked to receive their diplomas, the gleaming smiles on their faces were met and matched by proud families’ and friends’ claps, cheers and tears.
Seniors were both excited and nervous to begin their new life after high school, and many were thankful to the teachers at Foothill for making their experience the best.
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“I’m really excited to continue my life outside of high school,” Tyler Ragan-Sutton ’17 said. “I love this school and I’ll always remember it.”
“For me, high school has gone by kind of slowly, and so for me, graduating now feels like an immense accomplishment. […] I like to call it the first day of the rest of my life,” Chris Prewitt award winner Danielle Askar ’17 said.
The ceremony commenced with the entrance of the teachers, followed by the procession of the Dragon Honor Court. The Dragon Honor Court is a select group of juniors that serve to assist with senior events, which includes graduation.
After this, the procession of the seniors was initiated. As they met with their partners in the middle, some high-fived, some danced and others locked arms.
Once everyone was seated, Senior Class President Allison Shields ‘17 gave the commencement speech and Brianna Corbett ‘17 performed “The Star Spangled Banner.”
“We are a class that excels in different areas of study. […] We combine our different strengths and unite to become the prospered adults we have tirelessly worked to become. Today marks the day that our countless hours of studying in the last four years are traded in for a diploma,” Shields said.
Principal Joe Bova followed Shields’ speech with a few words about the Class of 2017.
“I would like to applaud all of you, family, friends and Foothill staff, for your involvement and support,” Bova said. “You have made a huge difference in the lives of these seniors, and I know they appreciate it.”
After that, Bova acknowledged some of the achievements of the Class of 2017.
Ninety-eight percent of seniors will be continuing on to college, university or a training academy after high school. One hundred and twenty-seven seniors, more than 50 percent, graduated with Honors, achieving a 3.5 Grade Point Average (GPA) or higher during all four years of high school.
Thirty-seven seniors were awarded with Magna Cum Laude for maintaining a 4.0 GPA or higher, and 16 graduates were honored with Summa Cum Laude, which means that they achieved a 4.4 GPA or better throughout high school.
91 seniors were Ventura Unified School District multilingual seal recipients, and received the California state seal of biliteracy. Twenty students were acknowledged in the Dragon Hall of Fame for a variety of subjects, ranging from academics to sports.
The nine salutatorians were Will Borchard, Eric Bruenner, Jonah Bufford, Shelby Collett, Courtney Corbett, Yume Dorsey, Anika Hsu, Mallery Kinnun and Arden Tanner. They were given medals by Assistant Principal Ronald Briggs. Then the three valedictorians, Grace Carey, Isaac Goldstein and Emily Kinnaman, were presented their medals by Assistant Principal Lisa Harvill.
Salutatorian Courtney Corbett then took the stage to present her speech, called “The Dragon Effect.”
“Changing the world does not require the earth-shattering effect of concentrating power,” Corbett said, recalling a quote from a TED Talk. “It requires one small change to one small strand in this tapestry we call life.”
Following this, several teachers and members of the school board prepared for the most anticipated moment of the day: the distribution of the diplomas.
After the names of all of the students had been called and all had received their diplomas, seniors Jacob Barba, Alex Cohen and Brianna Graham performed “On My Way” by Phil Collins. All the seniors rose and sang along in a final celebration of the new era of their life.
Bova and several others also recognized Media Center Specialist Linda Kapala on her incredible 17 years at Foothill.
Luis Gonzalez gave the final speech, titled “It Was Lit,” which was a final commemoration of the hard work of students.
In the defining moment of the ceremony, Ventura Unified Interim Superintendent Joseph Richards led the Class of 2017 in their turning of the tassels. Caps were thrown and confetti rained down on the excited students.
The iconic “Column of Colors” closed the ceremony, while Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” played in the background. Teachers lined up in two rows between the chairs, and students walked through to say their final goodbyes and to hug the instructors that helped them through their four-year journey.
Staff and students were proud of their successes, and were motivated to be catalysts for change and to reach for even greater things in the future.
“I feel like a huge weight is off my shoulders now, which is an amazing feeling,” Rachel Ayala ’17 said after walking through the row of teachers. “A lot of the teachers […] really helped me through it all.”
“This is definitely one of our best classes ever,” Bova commented. “They are a really, really strong class academically, and also just a fun group of students to be around.”
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world,” Gonzalez remarked, quoting Gandhi. “We must all […] be the change. I guess that would truly be ‘lit!’”