Giddy grads: Class of 2014 prepares to enter next phase of life

Photo by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mountain View High students celebrate the milestone at the conclusion of their commencement ceremony Friday, right.

There were speeches with Harry Potter comparisons and references to Chutes and Ladders. There were plenty of selfies and the usual metaphors about journeys, lessons learned and the road ahead. But it was all good for the Class of 2014 as they said goodbye to one phase of their lives and prepared to take on the future. Following are summaries of commencement ceremonies held last week in Los Altos and Mountain View.

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Los Altos High School

Families, friends and loved ones packed Tom Burt Field at Los Altos High School Friday to celebrate the Class of 2014.

Student masters of ceremonies Anica Nangia and Konrad Niemiec opened the evening by dedicating the occasion to the audience.

“Graduation is a community effort,” Niemiec said. “Every single one of you sitting out in the crowd was pivotal in getting us to this point, so we dedicate this evening to you.”

Principal Wynne Satterwhite said she was especially challenged when trying to find a single event or characteristic that summed up the Class of 2014.

“There is no single summary for this class,” she said. “They are an incongruous, seemingly contradictive group of individuals.”

After sharing various quotes from an array of historical figures and fictional characters, Satterwhite suggested that the class should consider the late Maya Angelou an honorary member of the Class of 2014 because she “defied characterization” and would have “rejoiced in the nonconformity” of the class.

“Life is not always as clear or as easy as we would like it to be,” Satterwhite said. “The Class of 2014 cannot be wrapped up neatly and tied with a bow. They are many shades of gray, green, purple, yellow and blue. Unique individuals whose strange angles are complicated messages, they are a reflection of the world in which they grew up. They are and will continue to be a force to be reckoned with, and nothing is ever just black and white.”

Graduating senior Derrick Lu equated the high school experience with the journey a baby sea turtle takes after hatching.

“High school was a giant speed race across the beach also known as our education,” he said. “In order for the turtle to move, in order for us to move, we had to stick our necks out and keep pushing forward. There will be challenges, and instead of hiding in our shells, we have to go out and meet those challenges.”

In that spirit, Lu took the opportunity to take a selfie on his cellphone with the audience and his class sitting behind him.

Student speakers Sarah Jacobs and Katherine Liu compared their high school experience to the world of Harry Potter.

“Here at Los Altos, we don’t have houses but have found homes that are just as tightly knit as Gryffindor, Huffelpuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin,” Jacobs said.

“We are the next generation of social, economic and cultural leaders,” Lui said. “So wherever you end up, we hope that you take a little of Los Altos’ magic with you. The last four years have been truly brilliant.”

Following tradition, the Main Street Singers selected two songs to perform for the graduating class, “Our Wish for You” and “Not to Say Goodbye.”

The evening’s final speaker, graduating senior Meghan McDermott, said high school was a time to color outside the lines.

“All of us know how to color outside the lines and off the pages, and with these incredible abilities, we are going to be able to vividly color our futures,” she said.

– Traci Newell

Los Altos High School Commencement Ceremony 2014

Photos by Ian Mackey/Special to the Town Crier

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Mountain View High School

A crowd of supporters covered Mountain View High School’s football field Friday as they cheered on the Class of 2014 at its commencement ceremony.

After a moment of silence, Ethan Giles, senior class president, thanked the audience for encouraging and contributing to the graduates’ education. He said he felt privileged to represent such a diverse and deserving class of “scholars, athletes, artists and philanthropists.” Giles emphasized that the success of the senior class would not have been possible without the help of those seated in front of them.

“Thank you for keeping our happiness your No. 1 priority,” he said.

New Principal Dave Grissom noted the ceremony as Mountain View High’s 112th graduation – and his first. He acknowledged the diverse academic and extracurricular achievements of the class, including the 33 scholars who earned a 4.5-plus weighted grade-point average and the boy’s volleyball team that last month won the Northern California Division I championship.

“You have exhibited team above individual pursuits,” Grissom told students.

Grissom offered a final word of advice: “Be the best that you can be through hard work and dedication to your studies, and have it be your life pursuit to work hard and be satisfied with the end result.”

Graduating seniors Jake Stuebner and Hannah Katz gave a metaphorical speech about the “Chutes and Ladders” of high school, discussing the ups and downs of adolescence and their excitement for the future.

“We must remember one thing: A new game of Chutes and Ladders awaits us,” Katz said.

The speech by students Marissa Parkhurst and Maggie Moore focused on the past rather than the future, expressing their gratitude for the Mountain View High community, a team of supporters they relied on heavily to reach the milestone and turning point of graduation. Parkhurst and Moore thanked the faculty, who worked tirelessly to stretch their academic boundaries, the friends who loaned them bus money and especially the parents, who Parkhurst added would always be needed and loved.

“It has taken a village to get us here, so thank you,” Moore said.

As the graduates ceremoniously tossed their caps in the air, the village of Mountain View applauded the beginning of a new chapter.

– Katie Robinson

Mountain View High School Commencement Ceremony 2014

Photos by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier

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Alta Vista High School

Alta Vista High School’s June 4 graduation began with a montage of before-and-after anecdotes as students described their feelings when they transferred to the alternative high school and upon graduation. Words like “outsider,” “defensive,” “worried,” “sassy” and “failure” transitioned into “accountable,” “motivated,” “flourished” and “determined.”

“Dreams don’t work unless you do,” said senior Claudia Flores.

The graduating seniors offered a reflection on their high school experience as they received their diplomas.

“This ceremony is personal, which is consistent with the nature of the education on campus. ... The small campus and classes allow for the formation of close relationships,” said Joe Mitchner, president of the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District Board of Trustees. “Many of the students at Alta Vista have taken nontraditional paths to reach this day. Those journeys serve as a constant reminder of why it’s so important that Alta Vista continue to thrive and to have a staff so dedicated to helping its students.”

Student speaker Yoselin Mora-Gutierrez described her shock at reaching graduation day after years of doubt and difficulty. Mora-Gutierrez gave birth at 15.

“I wanted to give up, but I thought about my son – he needed me to finish,” she said. “Alta Vista was more than good for me. It was a home for me, a place where I could feel confident.”

Mora-Gutierrez said every student at Alta Vista has a person or people who worked with and fought for him or her. She admitted her initial skepticism that adviser Dan Carter would understand what it was like to have a child at a young age, but said that he ended up feeling like a best friend.

“He gave me the power and belief that I could do this,” she said.

Mora-Gutierrez shared her struggles in continuing her education through the birth of two more children, then facing homelessness with her husband, also an Alta Vista graduate.

“I am proud that that time of our lives is over,” she said. “Don’t give up. Did you fall down? Stand back up.”

Teacher and poet Tommy Mouton read one of his poems to the 46 graduates and their assembled families, an audience filled with the clamor of children and cheering peers from other local high schools.

“Today is the one day in my life / that I have the most noble, / unimaginative desire to say how / grateful I am for my living,” he began. “For it was just yesterday that things / were not as they should have been. / My life was hanging in the balance, / suffocating from all the wrongs that / yesterday’s trials brought upon me. … And it is only now that I am able to say – / From wrong to right my days have changed.”

– Eliza Ridgeway

18th Annual Alta Vista High School Commencement Ceremony

Photos by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier

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MVLA Adult Education

Families and friends gathered at Mountain View High School’s Spartan Theater Thursday to celebrate the graduates of the Mountain View Los Altos Adult School.

The Adult School offers an alternative route for students to earn a high school diploma or GED. This year the school honored 14 high school diploma graduates and 72 GED graduates.

“You all have something in common – none of you has to be here,” said Joe Mitchner, president of the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District Board of Trustees. “It’s not mandatory. You are here because you chose to be. You realized the personal importance and value in this educational achievement. You committed, often under challenging circumstances, to accomplish this goal. For that, you and your families should be very proud.”

A common theme throughout the ceremony was the recognition of the obstacles students overcame to earn their diplomas or GEDs. Many who learned the importance of attaining their educational goals worked while taking classes.

Emmanuel Addy, a native of Ghana, discussed the challenges he faced working toward his GED while running his own business. He hopes that the GED will be the first step in furthering his education.

Amanda Deem, who earned a high school diploma, said she was happy to discover the Adult Education program. She described the school as a place where “teachers thought of me as an individual and not just a blank face in the back of the classroom.”

“I can easily say I am way more well-prepared for college because of the classes I have taken at the Adult School,” Deem said. “The school gave me the motivation to actually learn, not just pass the class.”

Keila Ruiz, another student speaker, echoed Deem’s praise for the school. Between holding down a job and giving birth to a son, she took morning and evening classes for several years to earn her GED.

“If there is anyone here who does not have their GED or high school diploma, I encourage you to enroll in the Adult School,” she said. “I am so grateful that I did. “

As the names were called, the audience cheered for their graduates, proudly shouting phrases like “Love you, Daddy” and “That’s my wife!”

– Traci Newell

MVLA High School District Adult School Program Commencement Ceremony

Photos by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier

Want to buy one of the Town Crier's photographs?  Click here for the full album and purchase options.

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