Hundreds of high school seniors dressed in navy blue and gold robes proceeded around the track of Dos Pueblos High School’s Scott O’Leary Stadium as “Pomp and Circumstance” played on Wednesday evening, kicking off the school’s fifty-third annual commencement. Families cheered for their kids as they passed by the bleachers, some blowing into noise makers and shooting confetti. The students then took their seats on the football field to receive words of encouragement from student speakers and principal Bill Woodard, after which they took the stage one by one to accept their diplomas. Each student was given a sunflower as they departed the stage.
Following the Dos Pueblos Jazz Choir’s performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” and “Remember Me,” Mr. Woodard took to the podium to greet the attendees and congratulate the class of 2019 on all of its accomplishments.
“By any measure, you, the class of 2019 certainly made your mark on our school. From a record-breaking number of added graduates heading off to four-year universities, our 16 ivy diploma candidates? eight national merit finalists, 146 career technical education pathways completed, dazzling visual and performing artists, championship athletes, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships collectively earned, ” he said.
The principal then gave way to a few student speakers. First was the class of 2019’s ASB President Sunny Graybill, who encouraged his fellow graduates to follow up the occasion by bettering themselves and taking steps toward making positive changes in the world.
“Let us look at tomorrow. Are we different because of this event, this ceremony? What has changed? Not much, really, unless we use this moment to begin change, change in ourselves,” he said.
Mr. Graybill was followed by Blythe Hastings, who recalled back to the summer after eighth grade, when she decided she wanted to attend Dos Pueblos despite its unfamiliarity and distance from her home neighborhood of The Mesa. Though attending a school without the classmates she was used to was daunting, Ms. Hastings said the struggle was “crucial in my experience as a student.” She then encouraged her students to take life’s struggles head-on.
“We are not here to slack. We are not here to conform? We are here to discover, we are here to collaborate?We are here to stand for our beliefs even in a sea of opposition, we are here to raise or voices against injustice however small we may feel. We are here to struggle, but together,” she said.
She concluded her speech stating that the feeling of pride shared by Dos Pueblos students is “why I would not bet on olive green and yellow. And why I most certainly would not bet on bright blue and red. But I would now and certainly always will bet on navy blue and gold.”
ASB treasurer Michael Diaz spoke next with a message specifically for students of disadvantaged minority backgrounds similar to his. Mr. Diaz said he is a first-generation college attendee, is the son of Mexican immigrants, and has a younger sister who suffers from cerebral palsy and epilepsy.
“I’m not supposed to be where I am now? I want my story to inspire the students of minority backgrounds here at DP, that just because the odds are stacked against you, doesn’t mean it’s impossible to accomplish,” he said.
Once the entire class of 2019 entered and left the stage with diplomas in hand, senior class president Angus Goodner read his closing remarks, which were entirely rhymed.
“We’re over these halls, so let’s have a ball. With much due reverence, peace y’all,” he said for his last line.
Mr. Goodner then lead the graduates in moving the tassels on their mortarboards from right to left. As “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey started blasting over the speakers, the graduates tossed their mortarboards into the air.
The News-Press caught up with a few graduates following the ceremony and all were excited to have graduated.
Orion Jimenez said it was an “amazing” experience because it was an opportunity to see all of his friends and family and “appreciate each other and love each other.” Mr. Jimenez will attend SBCC, where he hopes to get an associates degree and then study at a fire academy.
Kellen Pisacane said, “It’s pretty great, just knowing that all of our hard work paid off, moving on to the next chapter of our lives.”
Mr. Pisacane said he will attend SBCC, where he will try to figure out what he wants to do with his life.
Phoebe Leonard had a clearer plan, to begin college at UCSB in the fall and work toward a degree in biopsychology. However, she said the experience of graduating high school will take some time to sink in.
“I’m so excited, but honestly I’m really overwhelmed with everything that’s going on and I think it’s going to take me a few more weeks to process everything that’s happening,” she said.
Ms. Leonard only started going to high school at Dos Pueblos in her junior year, as she was previously homeschooled. In retrospect, she is more than happy to have been a Charger.
“It was definitely a large step but I’m so glad that I made that choice. I made so many good friends and gained a lot of experience here,” she said.