Bishop Garcia Diego High School celebrates its Class of 2019
“Today marks an end and a beginning.”
Those were the words of Bishop Garcia Diego High School Valedictorian Katherine Benzian as she addressed the Class of 2019 during Saturday’s commencement ceremony at the Courthouse Sunken Garden.
Ms. Benzian admitted that she was once a shy girl who was hesitant to raise her hand in class. She said she never thought it would be possible to have the courage to give a commencement address, but felt the support of her classmates and the self-confidence that Bishop has instilled in her.
She also thanked the teachers and staff at Bishop for their guidance.
“It seems that the teachers here always have an answer and know how to take care of each student as part of the Bishop family,” she said.
“We are the masters of our fate, we are the captains of our souls,” Ms. Benzian said, drawing from the William Ernest Henley poem “Invictus.”
“We’ve made it this far, but our paths are not finished,” she said. “As we look forward, we must also remember to look back and keep stock of our accomplishments, failures and challenges, because they have taken us this far and they are carrying us into our future. The world is waiting for us and here we come.”
Class Salutatorian Jose Estela also offered remarks and reflected on his high school years. He fondly remembered the senior retreat and thanked his friends, while acknowledging the educators at Bishop for allowing the students to grow both academically and spiritually.
“That has made all the difference,” he said.
After Auxilary Head of School Tom Crawford presented the senior class and the students received their diplomas, Head of School Karen Regan presented the Cardinal of the Year Award to Mr. Estela.
After the ceremony, Mr. Estela told the News-Press he was “completely surprised” to be recognized with such a prestigious honor.
“Honestly I didn’t think that many people know who I was, but this is such an honor,” he said.
Mr. Estela said he will miss the tight knit community at Bishop.
“We’re literally a family and I knew how to make lifelong bonds and I hope to keep these bonds with all of my friends here and keep in contact with them forever,” he said, as several classmates offered him high fives of congratulations.
The morning mist gave way just before the graduates entered the venue, as girls in white gowns and boys in red were led by the Knights of Columbus Fourth Degree Honor Guard and escorted to their seats by Dean of Students Stacy Carr.
Parents rose to their feet to honor the seniors ? some pulling out their cellphones to record the momentous occasion ? as “Pomp and Circumstance” played on the speakers.
Prior to the speakers, Mrs. Regan addressed the crowd. The class of 57 students has been accepted for admission to 115 colleges and universities. The students have earned more than $5 million in merit and athletic scholarships, including $40,000 from the local community. The class has fulfilled more than 10,725 hours of community service for local organizations.
“Graduates, you have made a difference,” said Mrs. Regan. “Your actions, both in and outside the walls of the classroom, are a true testament to the core values of respect, perseverance and compassion on which we place great value at Bishop Diego.”
Matthew Bennett, who has taught science courses at Bishop for the past five years, also gave a commencement address. In the fall, Mr. Bennett will be pursuing his Ph.D. in Science Education at UCSB.
Mr. Bennett shared with the students that he is “dreadfully afraid” of failing and shared three simple truths to help the students moving forward.
• First ? we as people do not know everything. He encouraged the students to seek out mentors and ask as many questions as possible. By doing so they will realize there is much more to learn.
• Second ? God loves us immensely. In a society that values wealth and power, knowing that God has a calling for everyone should provide the students with a sense of hope that will free them from their fear of failure.
• Third ? students cannot do it all. Comparing high school to having a fence taken down, the achievement will allow the students to loosen their boundaries into enjoyable but uncomfortable areas.
“My encouragement to you is to dive into the challenges in front of you,” Mr. Bennett said. “Knowing that you can’t do everything, knowing that you will make mistakes, knowing that you might hit a bump and say ‘I don’t know how to do this,’ and have to find a way. Above all, knowing that God loves you immensely makes the process exciting.
“If you want to find out what’s next for you and if you can do it, you’re going to have to do it.”