Jillian Bertolucci didn't want to go to Clovis North High School when it opened in 2007 because most of her intermediate-school friends were attending Buchanan High School and she wanted to go with them.
But when her transfer request was denied, she made the best of going to a sparsely populated campus with cavernous buildings, no traditions and no older role models.
Today, Jillian, who will attend Fresno State as a Smittcamp Family Honors College scholar in August, admits she was mistaken four years ago.
"I thank God every day I went to Clovis North," said Jillian, a member of Clovis North's first graduating class.
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Clovis North will graduate 384 seniors on Thursday, a small class by Clovis Unified standards, but its $1.5 million in scholarship offers measure up to peers at the district's other four high schools. The school was No. 3 out of five schools in scholarship money per student.
Among the schools Clovis North graduates will attend are: Duke University; Harvey Mudd College in Southern California; Lewis & Clark College in Oregon; Smith College in Massachusetts; and Sri Gokulam Medical College in India.
Eighteen students also gained credit at Fresno City College's Willow-International Center through a two-semester, no-cost program that allows Clovis North students to earn 12 units of dual high school and college credit, said Carol Shanahan, head counselor at Clovis North.
In the always-competitive Clovis district, Clovis North's state test scores have -- with just one exception -- exceeded other Clovis high schools. Last year, Buchanan outscored Clovis North by one point, 855-854. Granite Ridge Intermediate students -- on the same Clovis North campus -- also have had higher scores than their Clovis Unified peers in state testing.
Clovis North's scores are a byproduct of its demographics. It has about half the district's average of English learners and students from financially disadvantaged families in its test-taking group and a smaller percentage than any of the other Clovis Unified high schools.
On average, Clovis Unified had 10% English learners and 35.6% of students from socioeconomically challenged families among its high school test-takers last year.
Clovis North has drawn students from throughout the Clovis district, private schools, Fresno Unified, Sierra Unified and others, said Principal Norm Anderson.
"In spring 2007, we were trying to convince [students] to come," he said.
Like Jillian, Dolapo Sangokoya, who will attend UCLA in the fall, needed convincing, too. She said being the oldest students at the school seemed odd, but it didn't take long before she noticed the options available to her.
She rattled off a half-dozen activities -- including cheer, forensics, debate and student government -- in which she participated.
"I have never come to a school where there were so many opportunities," said Dolapo, whose transfer request to Buchanan also was denied.
Those opportunities allowed Clovis North's seniors to mix with each other more.
"We became one big family," said Joshua Gerodias, whose family lived in the Bay Area until he was in eighth grade.
He didn't expect to attend Clovis North until his father took a job in Fresno. Joshua will attend California State University, Hayward, in the fall.
Joshua was a member of Clovis North's two-time Valley-champion mock trial team that finished third in California this year.
The school also earned many other academic and athletic achievements in its short history.
It was hard work, said Anderson, the principal: "It took time to show them that [the new school] was a good thing."
He said students took their lumps -- "character building" moments -- both academically and athletically in their first two or three years.
But the graduates, Anderson said, quickly learned that they could set traditions, become role models and leaders for everyone else to follow.
"There was a need for them to be leaders a little bit earlier on," Anderson said. "They were seniors for four years."