To honor a senior class that has withstood wildfire, a debris flow and a pandemic, Carpinteria High School is welcoming an Olympic athlete as its commencement speaker.
Dain Blanton, an Olympic gold medalist and head coach of the USC beach volleyball team that won the 2021 NCAA tournament, will address the graduating class at the in-person commencement June 10. The program will start at 6 p.m. at Carpinteria Valley Memorial Stadium.
Mr. Blanton was the United States’ first two-time male beach volleyball Olympian, and he shattered barriers as the first black American athlete to win a major beach volleyball title.
The Carpinteria High School Class of 2021 has overcome a lot as well.
“Every single one of these students has a personal connection to these events,” Principal Gerardo Cornejo said in a news release, referring to the Thomas Fire, the debris flow and the pandemic. “They’re incredibly resilient. They are living up to what it means to be a (Carpinteria) Warrior.”
The Thomas Fire was ablaze during the class’s freshman year, closing the school’s campus. Then the debris flow in Montecito claimed the lives of 23 residents, closing campus again and overwhelming students’ emotions.
The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the students’ junior and senior years, sending them to altered schedules and online learning.
“They were able to overcome so many challenges and were still able to achieve success,” Principal Cornejo said.
The students likely will recognize Mr. Blanton for his role as spokesperson for Get Focused…Stay Focused!, a nonprofit that guides students through creating long-term plans. The students have participated in the online program since their freshman year.
“All these students know who he is from all the modules and classes with his videos,” Principal Cornejo said. “It will be good for them to recognize a familiar face at the ceremony.”