OTHELLO — The graduation walk at Othello High School is a sort of spiraling semicircle, where the seniors walk by the entire crowd, giving the families and friends a chance to show their pride and support close up.
When the class of 2017 came through Friday night, Ben Garza’s family and friends were excited, standing and waiting. And when Ben came into view the cheering started and the big “congratulations” sign was raised up.
Nichole (Nikki) Contreras’ mom displayed a copy of Nikki’s graduation picture, and those of her cousins, Samantha (Sammie) Perez and Vanessa Alanis. Nikki was on the dance team, Mom said, and for dance competitions she made a bigger sign, outlined with lights, but it was a little big for the stadium.
That’s what graduation is all about: the chance for seniors, their families and friends to celebrate. Co-valedictorian Shalyn Kent had calculated the time commitment; “113,880 hours of our lives,” she said.
Parents and friends had the phones and cameras out as the graduates walked into the stadium and the seniors received their diplomas. Benjamin Vasquez turned the tables and had his camera on a selfie stick, taking pictures of the crowd, his fellow graduates and the moment his diploma was awarded. It’s a big moment – Joseph Lopez Vigil stopped to share a high-five-fist-bump-handshake with his friend Victor Maldonado-Dominguez.
Shayln said the milestone was important, but less important than the journey to get there and the journeys that are ahead.
Every kid in the class of 2017 had failures, said co-valedictorian Victor Maria, but if students handle it the right way those failures will help them succeed. And the class worked for its successes, Shalyn said, for their parents and families – and maybe for themselves, to prove they could do it.
Class speaker Hector Miguel Valencia said he had heard people say high school is the best time of their lives – which was pretty sad, when he thought about it. “The future is what people will remember you by,” he said. Hector, Shalyn and Victor all thanked their parents, families, teachers and staff for the support the class received at OHS.
The seniors asked school custodian Marvis Jones to be the guest speaker. “Never give up,” he said. It’s important for the kids to think for themselves, he said, and to take responsibility for their education and their lives. “At the end, it’s all on you.” The class gave him a standing ovation.
Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.