The Live Oak High School class, whose members once graced television sets across the country on a fateful Cinco de Mayo, stood united Friday at Richert Field, this time to say goodbye.
On a sun-drenched afternoon that was vintage Morgan Hill, LOHS honored its class of 2012, a “phenomenal group of people” that doesn’t “suffer from a lack of spirit,” LOHS Principal Lloyd Webb shouted over the breeze to a crowd of about 2,500.
There were no TV cameras, no news vans or helicopters roaming in the cloudless sky to spoil a crowning moment that Webb said was “no small task.” The 251 graduates, wearing green gowns, green mortarboards, gold cords and colorful leis, had only their friends, family, the LOHS staff and each other to celebrate it with.
And, as one would expect, they did it their way.
Missing were the timeless but tired mantras of Seuss, Shakespeare and Yeats. The students who spoke touched on their personal experiences, the inspiring people in their lives and, with tongue in cheek, some of the moments that defined their four years at LOHS and their blossoming into young adults.
“We were rebellious. We’re not afraid to voice our opinion,” Associated Student Body President Victoria Wright-Ortiz and Vice President Gianna Seminatore said, alternating stanzas in a speech titled “Our Dreams, Our Future.” “We learned to cooperate. None of us are the same people we were four years ago when we stepped on this campus. We have all changed for the better after all the projects, all the classes and friends, the drama, the adventure, the tears, the laughter.”
Salutatorian Wendy Carmona added: “We’ve been through a lot together in four years. From freshmen to seniors ... from complete and utter immaturity to our first high school dances, rallies and sports games, to ... the realization of – ‘Shoot, I have to apply to college next year.’”
Webb encouraged the graduates to continue to grow, but to not lose track of who they are and where they came from.
“Believe in yourself and the power of heart,” he said. “Attack the day with every ounce of energy you have. Bring everything possible out of it. When the work day is over, and it’s time to play, play hard.
“Pause now and then to look back on the lives you have made. Share them with loved ones, but don’t spend a whole lot of time there. Imagine the opportunities. ... Jimmy Buffett sums it best: ‘Yesterday’s over my shoulder, so I can’t look back for too long. There’s just too much to see waiting in front of me, and I know I just can’t go wrong.’”
Genuine eagerness to fearlessly take on future challenges was a common theme in each students’ speech.
“Up until this point,” Wright-Ortiz and Seminatore said, “our futures have been decided for us. We have been told how to dress, how to act, what to eat, what we can buy, where to sleep and where to go to school. And now is the time to make our dreams real. We all have bright futures ahead of us. We are all capable of doing anything we set our minds to. We now stand before you all as mighty oaks ready to take on the world.
“The world isn’t ending. This is only the beginning.”
There were revolutionary undertones, but this was not the group of radicals portrayed by national media in the wake of May 5, 2010. These were mostly passionate, aspiring young adults; 221 of whom will receive higher education next year; six will enlist; a handful will play NCAA sports on scholarships.
“The class of 2012, especially here at Live Oak High School, are amazing individuals,” Superintendant Wes Smith said. “Their hard work, academics, their attitude in ... extracurricular activities and citizenship; these kids make us proud.
“And so to the class of 2012, I just want to say thank you sincerely from the bottom of my heart.”
Selina Sanchez, daughter of Justin and Jacklyn, will begin taking prerequisite classes Monday at Gavilan College. She wants to be a nurse.
“It’s uncommon for my family,” Justin said when asked about Selina’s work ethic. “We don’t really have goals like she does – which is good. ... We’re very proud of her.”
Selina “gets along with anyone,” Jacklyn said. “She’s the kind of person where, even if it’s a stranger, she’ll go up to them and talk to them if they’re down. She’s not afraid of anyone.”
Jennifer Rosales, an eighth-grader at Britton Middle School, would have won the award for Most Balloons Brought to the Ceremony. She went with a dozen – an appropriate amount – for her sister, Stephanie, and for her friend, Jessica Villa, who played together on the Live Oak girls basketball team. Next, year, Stephanie will attend Cal State East Bay, and Jessica, San Jose State.
“Stephanie’s really shy. That’s why we brought all these balloons,” Jennifer said. “She’s a really good sister. I’m going to miss her.”
Valedictorian Eunice Kim spoke with unchecked emotion, capturing the sadness of goodbye and the excitement of tomorrow.
“I don’t consider myself to be an emotional person. ... I didn’t think I’d be one of those people that cries at silly graduations,” she said. “I have not felt this emotional since Justin Bieber’s latest single came out.
“A lot of us spent the better half of our senior year counting down the days until this day,” Kim went on. “Even though these past few years were tough and sometimes downright miserable, I can’t imagine spending them with any other group of people than the individuals, these amazing individuals, who are standing behind me right now. ... I will genuinely miss my time here. I am genuinely going to miss you guys.”
Carmona said her and her fellow graduates’ lives had just begun.
“We’re defining our true goals and values,” she said. “Today is the start of a new beginning, a new chance to make things right and to follow our dreams and passions. It is important to thank all of the people who have helped us blossom during the last 12 years, including family, friends and teachers.”
That, too, the graduates did in their own way. The class gift, presented by Senior Class President Maribel Tapia and Vice President Gloria Navarro, who also gave a speech, “Bienvenidos,” in Spanish, included a $2,000 donation that will go toward paying for the school’s new marquee and $3,000 for new chairs and a stage for graduations.
When the ceremony ended, and the mortarboards, balloons and confetti flew, the graduates clambered down the stadium bleachers to celebrate the bittersweet moment with family and friends.
Alas, it was a cliché offered by Rick Obbema, father of volleyball and standouts Katie and Jenny Obbema, that summed up the feeling best.
“I know everyone says it,” he said, “but four years goes by fast.”
The final words from Kim’s speech seemed to resonate afterward.
“Until we meet again, peace.”