Graduation 2023: A heartfelt goodbye to the last four years


Rihanna Samples

On the eventful afternoon of June 14, 2023, the Foothill Technology High School (Foothill Tech) seniors and their family and friends gathered together at Ventura College to celebrate the class of 2023’s graduation. With joy on their faces, some seniors threw their caps in the air while others embraced each other, excited to move on from high school to the next journey waiting for them, whether that be college, trade school or simply taking a gap year.

Ruby Jenkins and Ella Asher

On Wed., June 14, 2023, Foothill Technology High School (Foothill Tech) said goodbye to its 21st graduating class at the annual graduation ceremony. 

Family and friends of the class of 2023 sat in the stands of Ventura Community College (VC) as they awaited graduates’ arrival. Although the weather was gloomy, the day was quite the opposite for the 222 graduating seniors, who anxiously waited to walk out onto VC’s field. Red and black balloons covered the walkway as music blared from the speakers. Foothill Tech staff walked out into the ceremony area, followed by the junior Dragon Honor Court and finally, the graduating class. 

The confetti and poster cut-out filled stands roared as each student walked the track and found their seats. The tradition of decorated caps was carried through to this year, with various caps filled with song lyrics, future schools and art designs that could be seen from even the farthest seats. 

The ceremony commenced with Associated Student Body (ASB) Senior Class President Lily Shadden ‘23 greeting the students and families. Shadden, who will be attending Southern Utah University for National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division One soccer in the fall, spoke about the challenges that this year’s senior class has faced over the last four years. 

From COVID-19 to ChatGPT, Shadden spoke about their shared experiences from 2019 to 2023, including difficulties with Zoom classes and senioritis. Shadden ended her heartfelt speech by saying, “Seniors, you pushed one another to strive in everything that we did. We became one anothers cheerleaders and came together to form a community in some of the most challenging years that we’ve experienced,” leaving many teary eyes in the crowd. 

Principal Russell Gibbs then began his speech that led the rest of the ceremony, after a brief introduction of himself and the Ventura Unified School District (Ventura Unified) Board of Directors that attended. Gibbs went on to congratulate the class and their accomplishments throughout the last years. 

Gibbs and previous principals have a tradition of announcing all the universities that the students will be attending in the coming years. This year was no different as graduating dragons will be attending universities all over the country, with some even going overseas. A few students plan on attending schools in various countries in the world, with one going as far as Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou, China. Many also plan on attending VC, right across the street from Foothill Tech. 

Gibbs then recognized all of the important awards and accomplishments of the class, including Magna Cum Laude, Summa Cum Laude, community service achievements and awards given by the state of California. 

Two notably missing awards this year were Valedictorian and Salutatorian. These awards were removed from Foothill Tech earlier this year, as the school moves towards dual enrollment, which conflicts with the traditional grade-point average (GPA) determination. Many had strong opinions on its removal, although no one touched on the topic at graduation itself. 

These past four years have brought many difficulties for the Class of 2023. Giotto Thompson ‘23 stated that, “the COVID[-19] pandemic basically cut out the latter half of my freshman and most of my sophomore year.” 

Gibbs acknowledged the difficulties these students faced and overcame by saying, “Class of 2023, thank you for all of your grit and determination in these past four years, and I am very happy to highlight what the Class of 2023 was able to accomplish.”

Kimberly Chavez ‘23 stands at the podium addressing the crowd in her senior speech. She commemorates their time together as seniors along with calling them to lead by example as they go into their college year. Her speech offered encouraging words to uplift her peers while inflicting a sense of nostalgia and remembrance of their time together. (Rihanna Samples)

In a speech that moved the crowd, Kimberly Chavez ‘23, highlighted the importance of change, encouraging the graduating class to “become better versions of ourselves.” 

To illustrate this message, she quoted Albert Einstein who stated, “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” Furthermore, Chavez discussed the importance of how we treat each other. Years from now, she argued we will not remember everything from highschool, but we will remember how we made each other feel. She stated “even the smallest gesture can make a significant impact in someone’s life.”

Following speeches by VUSD Superintendent Dr. Antonio Castro and VUSD Board of Education President Sabrena Rodriguez, the ceremony transitioned to the presentation of the diplomas. The sounds of applause and cheers took over the stadium as names read aloud echoed throughout the VC stadium. One brave student even attempted a backflip after receiving his diploma, though he landed on his face. 

This year’s graduation concluded with the ceremonial turning of the tassels. Rodriguez asked students to rise in unison, move the tassel on their caps from the right to the left, signifying their completion of high school. As Rodriguez presented the graduating Class of 2023, students cheered exuberantly as many tossed their caps into the air. 

Teachers began to form a path to congratulate the graduates as they exited. The audience applauded to honor the graduated seniors as they celebrated the end of one chapter in their lives, and the beginning of another. 

Messages from the graduates themselves truly spoke to the excitement and sense of accomplishment that filled the stadium. Pascal Hayward ‘23 shared what he wished he did more in high school, “stress a lot less about homework … enjoy your time a little bit more.”

A common theme the graduates who were interviewed also shared was the importance of balancing their education and their personal lives. A sincere sense of pride rippled through the now Foothill Tech alumni. Owen Houston ‘23 expressed that his proudest moment was, “right now … it’s cool to be able to look at all I’ve accomplished and all I’ve worked for.” 

As the dragons take flight from Foothill Tech, they embark on a new chapter of their lives, where they will continue to pursue their dreams, embrace new challenges and find their way through the world. The graduation ceremony marked the beginning of their journeys as they spread their wings and soar towards their aspirations.

Jenna Ostrom and Sofia Patiño
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