Santa Ynez Valley Union High School celebrates 121st graduating class
Lyndsey Hedrick had dreams of being a movie star.
A few years later, she wanted to be a CEO or politician. Her dream job then shifted to psychiatrist, and she reluctantly admitted she wanted to be a wedding planner.
Through all of the ups and downs, Ms. Hedrick told the crowd at Pirate Stadium she felt like she would never be “a somebody.”
Her time at Santa Ynez High helped her learn that she didn’t have to “be someone” in order to be happy.
“We are someone to somebody,” she said. “You are someone to your friends, your family, your teachers, your co-workers. You are someone to anyone who has ever been touched by your actions. And these small acts of kindness and compassion – they add up. Most of us may not have the chance to make a difference in the world, but to these people our actions make a world of difference.”
Ms. Hedrick was one of three students to speak during Friday’s commencement ceremony at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School.
Senior Juan Sanchez, with his knee heavily bandaged as he recovers from an injury, hobbled to the podium and shared his story. From a shy, timid eight-grade student, Mr. Sanchez went on to find solace on the soccer field and also participated on the school football team. His coaches helped shape him into the young adult he is today, teaching him how to work hard and never give up.
“Every single lesson they taught me will stay with me for the rest of my life,” he said.
Erinn Callaghan compared the graduating class to the school mascot — Pirates.
She explained that the students have faced their fair share of rough seas and wild surrenders, all of which have helped form who they are today.
“We were taught to take our losses as lessons to guide our decisions ahead and to keep our heads high and our ships pointed to the future of our own design — one that should be filled with treasure and victory,” she said.
As she spoke, a plane circled the stadium overhead with a banner reading “Congrats SYVUHS Class of 2019.”
Concluding her speech, Ms. Callaghan said, “We are now and forever Pirates.”
As the graduates entered the stadium and made their way to their seats, many stared into the bleachers in search of friends and family. Some students showed their creativity with decorated caps. Some had messages of resolve or logos for their college of choice. One student had a rainbow umbrella atop his cap, and two others stapled stuffed animals on theirs — “why not, cows are cool animals,” said one student.
Some begrudgingly welcomed applause and cheers from the crowd, while others sought out acknowledgement.
The student speeches followed opening remarks from Principal Mark Swanitz. Mr. Swanitz then returned to the podium after the students to highlight some of the academic and athletic achievements of the graduating class. He also highlighted the groups’ activism and service completed over the years.
“Put simply, this class collectively has an amazing combination of talent and abilities, vision and actions,” he said. “The students sitting before you are true pioneers who represent not only our collective hope for a better future and the best of what it means to be a Santa Ynez Pirate, but the enduring spirit of the school that was founded 123 years ago.”
A total of 53 graduates finished with a GPA of 4.0 or higher, and 157 of the 209 graduates took at least one advance placement honors class during their time at Santa Ynez, Mr. Swanitz said.
Excluding institutional, academic or athletic scholarships, the class of 2019 received a total of 18 scholarships and grants totaling more than $500,000, including $200,000 in local scholarships, said Mr. Swanitz.
Nearly 93 percent of the class will be continuing their education in the fall and will be attending colleges or universities in 16 states — a new record for the school.
The school was founded in 1896 and first held commencement in 1898 — making Friday’s graduates the 121st graduating class, Mr. Swanitz said.
Jan Clevenger, president of the Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District, accepted the class before the students were presented their diplomas.
As the students received their diplomas, members of the audience shot confetti into the sky. Horns belched out as names were called, and the students posed, waved and blew kisses to friends and family who attended their big day.
Class President Benjamin Blacker then stood before the class as the graduates shifted their tassels from right to left.
Once Mr. Blacker sat down, Mr. Swanitz presented the class of 2019. The students then tossed their caps in the air and the audience jumped the fence from the bleachers to congratulate the now former students.