Ominous clouds and foreboding weather reports didn’t dampen the spirits of local graduating classes Friday.
Students at Los Altos and Mountain View high schools cheered for fellow classmates during the ceremonies as they anticipated the moment they would officially say goodbye to high school.
Families and friends buzzed with excitement and celebrated with balloons, noisemakers, flowers and well wishes for their graduates.
Los Altos High School
Accompanied by the traditional “Pomp and Circumstance” played by the Los Altos High School Band and Orchestra, nearly 400 students – the Class of 2011 – christened Tom Burt Field’s turf with footsteps toward their futures.
Caps decorated with glittered messages signaled the destinations for many successful students: Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Penn State, UC Davis, USD, UCSB, USC, OSU, SFSU and Foothill College, to name a few.
Graduating seniors Tyler Stout and Erika Schonher hosted the ceremony.
“Tonight, our job is to define the Class of 2011,” Schonher said.
Perhaps it was winning the sleeping-bag race as freshmen that foreshadowed the class’s future success, Stout said – success in supporting outreach programs to countries in need; green and sustainable projects for the school campus, such as construction of the parking-lot solar panels; and establishing Diversity Day, an opportunity for students to share their cultural heritage with others. The final coup, Stout said, was winning the tug-of-war games as seniors.
In her welcoming address, Principal Wynne Satterwhite likened education to the “Harry Potter” series authored by J.K. Rowling, in that both are filled with fun, drama, intrigue and choices.
“But I believe the real magic in education happens within the walls of a classroom,” she said.
Satterwhite said the Class of 2011 was filled with “passionate, caring and extremely bright” people – and social advocates and agents of change.
Satterwhite presented Eagle Awards for strong academic, leadership and community spirit to Carolyn Yang, Tyler Stout, Lauren Biglow and Jason Hu.
District officials recognized Sarah Fagan for her community service efforts with the Paul S. Sakamoto Award.
Of the more than 390 graduates, 13 earned weighted Grade Point Averages of 4.5 or higher, and nine achieved straight-A success throughout their high-school careers.
Four senior speakers – Yareli Flores, Rachel Grate, Jill Rubin and Yang – encouraged their classmates to overcome personal challenges, never give up, always ask questions and learn from those around them.
“Our parents and teachers are educators,” Flores said. “Parents are teachers of life and teachers are teachers of school.”
And though there are moments from the past four years many students would like to forget – broken hearts and broken dreams – Grate said it’s important to learn from life’s lessons.
“Embarrassment is nothing more than the beginning of a funny story,” Grate said. “And we will someday be the ones telling another generation our stories.”
For Rubin, education is about interaction, exploration and pushing boundaries. And asking questions.
“Wait! – I have one more question,” Rubin said to the Class of 2011. “Are you ready?”
Mountain View High School
The Class of 2011 marked Mountain View High School’s 109th graduating class.
Senior class president Jay Herrington welcomed the boisterous crowd and thanked the audience and school staff.
Principal Keith Moody, a member of the 1980 Super Bowl champion Oakland Raiders, offered a few words of inspiration to students.
“Remember to value what you do for others as much as the size of your paycheck,” he said. “My wish is each of you will win your own personal Super Bowl.”
After the names of the first hundred graduates were announced, student Kara Trammell began her speech, “Success Is Like Wrestling a Gorilla.”
Trammell compared the writer Robert Strauss’ quote – “Success is a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don’t quit when you’re tired. You quit when the gorilla is tired” – to completing high school.
“We, the Class of 2011, have just wrestled and conquered one of our biggest gorillas in life – high school,” she said. “We fought hard for four years – we are champions.”
Trammell connected the high school experience to days of the week, Monday for freshmen year, Tuesday for sophomore year and so on.
Trammell thanked the audience and those who helped the graduates on their journeys. Fighting tears, she offered her final thoughts.
“High school will not be our only gorilla,” she said. “I hope as we go off in the world, we can remember the lessons we learned and use them for our benefit. May each of us never forget who we are, where we come from and where we want to go.”
After more graduates were announced, Sonia Ibrahimkhail and William Beare took the stage to present their speech, “Redefining Incredible.”
Ibrahimkhail and Beare reminisced about the Class of 2011.
“Instead of going on and on about how we have to be the best people we can be in our future, the most valuable thing we can do now is remember the quirks and defining characteristics of the Class of 2011,” Ibrahimkhail said.
The pair described the positive traits of their fellow graduates.
“When I look around at this graduating class, I see people who developed not only academic skills, but also compassion and understanding,” Beare said.
Ibrahimkhail summed up the importance of the milestone.
“Let’s get carried away and caught up in this wonderful feeling of great achievement, nostalgia, positive anxiety and the joy of finally completing high school,” she said. “We deserve to celebrate.”
The seniors ended the evening by tossing their caps skyward on the football field.
Alta Vista High School
Families and friends of Alta Vista High School graduates gathered at Mountain View High School’s Spartan Theater June 1 to applaud the Class of 2011.
Alta Vista, the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District’s alternative high school, provides an accredited program for students whose needs are not met in the traditional high schools.
Student speaker Alyssa Hamilton said she began to feel out of place when she entered Mountain View High. When her family became homeless sophomore year, things got worse.
“As more struggles came my way, I found it more and more difficult to be motivated,” she said. “When life is happening all around you and you watch as your family struggles, it seems so petty to worry about homework or which class you need to study for.”
During her senior year, Hamilton was given a fresh start when she enrolled in Alta Vista.
“I found where I belonged,” she said. “I found a home. Alta Vista gave me a gift; it surrounded me with people who wanted to see me succeed. At Alta, we are a family that recognizes that although every member has a set of different skills and struggles, we can all achieve personal success.”
Hamilton said she valued her education from Al–ta Vista.
“Education truly is the key to having control over your life as a young adult,” she said. “Even if the world has given up on you, don’t give up on yourself.”
Parents and friends cheered the black-robed graduates as they moved their tassels from right to left and officially became graduates of the Class of 2011.
Mountain View Los Altos
Graduates of the Mountain View Los Altos Adult Education’s General Education Development and High School Diploma programs have unique stories.
The graduates and their excited families and friends gathered at Spartan Theater June 2 to celebrate the milestone.
The Adult School, which provides child-care services, educates many young mothers, English language learners, foreign students working toward meeting American education standards and adults improving their lives by obtaining a high school education.
Adult Education students are at all stages of life. Graduate Wendy Lopez received the news that she passed her GED examination while in labor at a hospital.
A fellow graduate accepted her diploma the evening before her oldest son graduated from Mountain View High School.
No matter what their background, the students agreed that earning their GED or high school diploma gave them confidence.
“I used to have no self-confidence and lived in fear of failure,” said student speaker Manuel Aguilar. “This is before I went back to school. In all honesty, I now feel unstoppable and know there is nothing I can’t do as long as I put my mind to it.”
Student speaker Kevin Argumedo moved to the United States from El Salvador two years ago. He had to overcome difficult obstacles, such as learning English, to earn his high school diploma.
Student speaker Sugey Contreras said she decided to earn her GED for her son, soon to enter preschool. Contreras, who had only an elementary-school education in Mexico, knew she needed to learn English and have an education to assist her son through school.