Graduation 2021: “Fly like a Dragon”


Kami Kada

Class of 2021 graduates throw their caps into the air to celebrate the end of their high school experience.

Adler Striegel and Ethan Sequeira

“This year we were able to show how ready we really are. We defeated isolation, we moved forward, we persevered. […] So take what you have learned, seize every opportunity, and fly like a dragon,” concluded senior Ellie Crist in her speech to the Foothill Technology High School (Foothill Tech) graduating class of 2021, titled, “To the Class that Lost, Yet Prevailed.”

Ellie Crist ’21 presents a speech to her fellow graduating seniors. (Kami Kada)

The 2021 commencement ceremony was held for the first time outdoors, at the Ventura College (VC) stadium on June 11, 2021. Students and families were given the opportunity to celebrate their high school accomplishments, in-person, accompanied by a Ventura coastal breeze and sunny weather. The ceremony was also live streamed by Community Access Partners of San Buenaventura (CAPS) media, allowing those that didn’t have the ability to attend, the opportunity to witness the event.

Having an in-person graduation after so much time spent separated due to the COVID-19 pandemic, “made this moment even more special because we didn’t think we were going to be together this year but we were able to and that’s really cool,” explained Associated Student Body (ASB) President Elizabeth Ferris ‘21. 



The ceremony began with the entrance of the officiants, followed by the Dragon Honor Court. Honor Court is composed of eleven juniors who applied and were chosen to assist with senior events under the guidance of Foothill Tech teacher, Melanie ‘Captain’ Lindsey.

Following the Honor Court, the procession of seniors began. All wore Class of 2021 masks, some sporting decorated caps and wearing cords and medals that marked their accomplishments. Families and friends watched from the stands as the graduating class took their seat for the remainder of the ceremony.

The morning continued with Ferris leading the Pledge of Allegiance and giving her commencement speech. She thanked those in ASB and the Foothill Tech ‘staffulty’ that worked together to make an anything but normal year, successful. She also announced the senior gift to the school, an inflatable screen, projector and a projector stand that would allow for outdoor movies.

Cole Dinkler and Kimberly Fickerson

Principal Russell Gibbs then took the stage to highlight some of the experiences and successes of the Class of 2021.

“Only a few weeks ago we were planning to meet at city hall for a drive through ceremony, only a few months ago it seemed to be an impossible task to hold any sort of large in-person celebration. Look at us now, VC stadium is near capacity to celebrate 227 of the finest high school graduates in the country,” exclaimed Gibbs.

Gibbs later remarked that, “the COVID rates coming down to the yellow tier is really what opened it up,” for Foothill Tech to have an in-person graduation ceremony.



He then acknowledged some of the many accomplishments of the Class of 2021.

Ninety-eight percent of the seniors have chosen to attend a university, college, community-college or training academy. Gibbs then named the colleges, universities and trade schools seniors were planning to attend, asking them to stand when theirs was announced. Students that have chosen a gap year, chosen to enter the workforce or chosen to travel the world, were also recognized.

Kami Kada

Gibbs also announced the three Foothill Tech Dragons that are planning on joining the navy and airforce, thanking them for their service and sacrifice. Each announcement was met with an uproar of applause from the stands filled to near capacity with friends and family.

The six valedictorians included Rose Aguilar, Hannah Dearman-So, Noelle Hayward, Nikhil Maserang, Dylan Mullaney and Elsa Schmidt. The six salutatorians were Adithi Desham, Vedang Joshi, Oliver Pick, Akshay Shanbag, Juliet Ward and Connie Yang.

Gibbs then recognized the 25 seniors who will be graduating Summa Cum Laude, with a cumulative GPA of 4.4 or higher and those that will receive Magna Cum Laude, a cumulative GPA of 4.0-4.39. He also acknowledged the 60 graduates that received the Ventura Unified School District (Ventura Unified) multilingual seal and the California State Seal of Biliteracy. In addition, Gibbs recognized those who received awards for exemplary community service work.

Joey Bishop ’21 walks to his seat along with his fellow classmates. (Kami Kada)

Those that participated in ASB, California Scholarship Federation, the SSD pathway, The Foothill Dragon Press (FDP), Bioscience Academy, D-Tech Academy, National Honor Society, A.V.I.D. and the nineteen seniors inducted into the Dragon Hall of Fame also received recognition. Gibbs announced the 14 student-athletes inducted into the Dragon Athletic Wall of Fame, the two inducted in the Ventura County Hall of Fame and two more that are recognized as California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) student-athletes.

When asked how she felt following the ceremony, Valedictorian Elsa Schmidt ‘21 stated, “I think exhilarated would be a good word.”

“All of my experiences here led to a really happy feeling of being able to be here with all my friends,” continued Schmidt.



Gibbs then officially presented the Class of 2021 to Ventura Unified Superintendent Roger Rice. Rice enthusiastically greeted the crowd and shared some memories he had with the graduating seniors, including joking that he wanted to carry the bags of Eesh Manwani ‘21 on his next trip to India and the exciting talks he would have with Deangelo Allen ‘21. After the official acceptance of the Class of 2021, the momentous reading of the names began, led by Foothill Tech teachers, Spencer Kellogg and Alberto Ortiz.

Gibbs awarded each student with their diploma and they walked down the steps, pulling their mask down for a picture. Cheers and pounding against the bleachers reverberated throughout the field as families and friends watched with smiles on their faces and tears in their eyes. In one particularly heartwarming moment, Katherine Roth ‘21 was surprised by her brother Karl Roth, who returned from serving overseas in the United States military.

Karl Roth returns from deployment and surprises his sister Katherine Roth ’21 during the ceremony. (Kami Kada)

Once each graduate had received their diploma, Crist gave the final address to the Class of 2021. Parts of her speech were translated in Spanish.

Despite the difficulties of the past year, Crist remarked that, “Today is about remembering the good. Remembering the time we did have together and the time that shaped our lives.”

Following the speech, Ventura Unified Board Vice President, Matt Almaraz congratulated and led the seniors in the turning of the tassels. And with a toss of their cap into the air, the Foothill Tech Class of 2021 went from student to graduate.

“No matter how difficult your situations become, or no matter how dark moments can seem,” concluded Gibbs in his speech, “never forget that tough times never last but tough people do.”

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