Commencement speeches have been in the news a lot this season. In Fresno, a lawsuit is brewing with Bullard High School valedictorian Gregory Weaver suing Fresno Unified School District in a battle over a speech he hoped to deliver at graduation.
Nationally, a middle school commencement speaker, Jack Aiello of Arlington Heights, Ill., brought down the house nationwide online with hiliarious imitations of the candidates in a skit worthy of “Saturday Night Live.” Millions have applauded his speech. Cannot wait to see what he does in high school!
And between all that arguing and laughing, there are speakers right here at home, Fresno County students just sharing encouragement from their hearts.
FAILURE SUPPLIES FLAVOR
Now, my fellow Grizzlies, it’s time to start writing your stories. While we’re still physically able and capable, take hold of what life presents before you and use it to cultivate kindness, love, and peace in the home, community, and hopefully, the world.
May your failures be the seasoning on your soup of success.
Kona April Vu, Central High School West
FOLLOWING DOC BUCHANAN
Very few schools in this state – this country, even – perhaps, dare I say, the world – offer the kind of preparation and education that Buchanan does. Our dedication to excellence is widely renowned, and for good reason. We are committed to doing the very best no matter what the odds are, a trait we take straight from our founder and namesake, Doc Buchanan.
It’s that very spirit that will serve each of us well throughout life, and I am confident that it has never been more prevalent than in this graduating class. Mark Twain once wrote, “The best way to get ahead is to get started.” Rejoice, Class of 2016, because you have made quite a start.
Samuel J. Kennedy, Buchanan High School
THANK YOU FOR BEING OUR LIGHT
Although we are celebrating our accomplishments this evening, we know that the reason we made it here is sitting right in front of us. So thank you to everyone in the audience. Thank you for your love and guidance, and thank you for being our light in those dark places.
Emily Alkire, Clovis High School
HIGH SCHOOL ROLLER COASTER
The reason we succeed isn’t because of any secret trick that only we at Clovis East know. The reason we succeed is because we have one thing: passion. And the reason we have that passion is because we are in the right atmosphere and the right place to use our unique talents. But part of being unique is becoming your own person, and striving to discover who you truly are.
And that’s what leads us to the next step: self-discovery. It’s apparent that, in this long roller coaster ride we called “high school,” we all found pieces of ourselves and explored what makes us special.
Ryan Frazier, Clovis East High School
BE WORLD CHANGERS, AND DREAM CHASERS
Let your education be your mentor, your heart guide wherever you enter. Somehow, we wrapped our minds around the concept that, who we are can be molded from the contents of a bookshelf. But we were never told that you must first create yourself. So excel as a shop assistant or a clerk.
Be inspired by your quirk for sheer innovation, whether you work as a farmer or an engineer. Wear the armor of the millennials, with many different layers. Be the world changers and the dream chasers. I dare you! Be unconventional. Whether that’s picturing your future on Instagram, and thinking bigger. Following your dreams on Twitter, or finding what you’re looking for on Google.
Be the innovators, and the groundbreakers. Take what you’ve learned and dare – because our generation can create opportunities out of thin air.
Jacob Rush, Clovis West High School
I WAS 65 UNITS BEHIND
The end of my junior year was when I found out how far behind I was with my high school credits. My counselor at the time told me that I would be 65 credits behind and at the beginning of my senior year, I would be piled up with a ton of schoolwork to get caught up in order to graduate on time.
I knew that I didn’t have the discipline to take on being so far behind and also trying to complete my senior year. It was then that I decided to come to Gateway High School.
I needed the one-on-one help, and wanted to surround myself with people who would help motivate me to get the work done. And that’s exactly what I got at Gateway. It was probably the best decision I have ever made.
Grace Sophia Torres, Gateway High School
SMALL CHOICES MATTER
I can tell you from experience, even the smallest choices you make in life matter. Every choice opens new doors and you have to have the motivation and the self-respect to choose the right ones.
We had a speaker at one of our assemblies, and he made a statement that I could relate to personally. He said, “Be careful what you think because thoughts become your words. Be careful what you say, because your words become your actions. Be careful what you do because your actions become your habit. Be careful of what becomes your habits, because your habits become your character. And your character, ultimately, becomes your destiny.”
This year, I made a little habit of my own life … and that was choosing the right path and going through the right doors.
Lauren Sisko, Gateway
Struggling with depression and anxiety, it was extremely difficult to find motivation to go through daily life. Although there was a downfall, I did find ways to counteract the negative emotions by participating in activities such as speech and debate, peer counseling, careers with children, and the law program at CART, the Center for Advanced Research and Technology, in Clovis.
Eventually, though, high school took a bigger toll on my mental health than I could handle, landing me in Enterprise.
The environment was a lot less stressful for me, and with the patience and support of the teachers and counselors, I was able to work at a pace that I found comfortable. I used my newfound courage as a vessel to dive beneath my illnesses and come to the other side stronger and more confident than ever.
I am thankful for all that I’ve been through, even the hardships, because without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I wouldn’t be standing as tall or speaking as eager.
Alexis Corrente, Enterprise High School
A COLLEGE GRAD 2 YEARS EARLY
Since my freshman year began, I have been able to earn 40 college credits while not having to attend high school on the traditional 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. basis. Being able to work on my diploma on my schedule has helped me to succeed greatly.
I can now look forward to graduating college about two years early thanks to Clovis Online allowing me the freedom that I had wanted from a high school. I’d like to thank everyone who has helped me get to this point, because without your support, none of this would have been possible.
Addie Hippert, Clovis Online School
AN UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCE
Clovis Online has made high school an unforgettable experience. I never could have done any of this without the support of Mrs. Shelby. She unlocked tests around the clock, on weekends and on vacation. Mrs. Kapigian, who made sure I got all the correct classes and credits done on time, and of course, with a little help with the love and devotion of my horses. Without my mom, sisters and grandparents, I would not be the person I am today.
Ciera Hargis, Clovis Online
I FINALLY FEEL COMPLETE
After retiring from the military, I still had this tremendous feeling of not being complete. It haunted me ever since the day I quit high school. By 2012, my daughters had both graduated and were already enrolled in college when they encouraged me to return to school and finish what I had abandoned so many years before.
I made a solemn promise to both of them, that it was now my turn, my time, to get my high school diploma. I want to thank my wife, Irene, and my daughters, Amy and Cassy, for pushing me to finally fulfill this void. It has taken me almost 40 years, but that void is now gone. My goal has been reached. I finally feel complete.
Larry Sanchez, Clovis Adult Education
WONDERFUL, POSITIVE FEELING
As I got older, I felt the need to graduate. I always had a passion for learning. As my family grew, I would try to attend school, but would drop out after a few months. Then, I stepped foot on the Clovis Adult School campus. From the beginning, the school had a wonderful, positive feeling.
It was an aura that made people feel confident and really good about themselves. This is my second time attending classes here, but the teachers did not stop encouraging me and most importantly never gave up on me.
Nicholas Valencia, Clovis Adult
WORKING FOR CITY OF FRESNO
Clovis Adult was a new start for me and it just felt right. My entire experience with this school has been great – from the moment I walked in, throughout all of my classes, and up to today.
Now, I am confident academically, so much so that I want to pursue a college education. As a result of earning my high school diploma, I am now employed with the city of Fresno. If you think you are too old, that you’ve made too many mistakes or it’s just too late, remember if I can do it, so can you.
Steve Valero, Clovis Adult
GIVE UP OR POWER THROUGH
Not many of you know me, but I am very prone to injury in sports, and this year I suffered from the worst injury yet, I tore my medial meniscus and my ACL. It was probably one of the worst things that has ever happened to me. When it originally happened, I was filled with nothing but negative thoughts, and I thought it was the end of the world.
My injury led me to make this life motto in my AP English class: “Don’t let one crutch in the road stop you from living life.” Because I was on crutches, it made sense at the time, I swear.
But the bigger picture here is that life is going to throw us rough patches, hard times and loads and loads of messed up situations, but it is your choice to either give up or power through. I know we all can make it because we made it here today. We are strong, and I know we all can accomplish great things.
Ivana Caposino, Coalinga High School
NEVER HOLD GRUDGES
The lessons I’ve learned over time have been to be positive, never give up, and always forgive; never hold grudges. Instead of dwelling on the past, and stressing out with family problems, or financial problems, put your mind toward your goals. That will get you out of the hole instead of digging deeper.
I was exposed to things that a normal child shouldn’t have to be exposed to, and having to mature at a young age. That’s when I decided I want to bring my family and I out of this lifestyle by working at age 15, graduating from high school and staying strong to keep my family going.
Matthew Rodriguez, Cambridge High School
60 COLLEGE UNITS DONE
My time at Design Science has been exceedingly positive, and I found the opportunities this program provides are much greater, almost unimaginable. Every student who walks onto our campus has the opportunity to leave with up to 60 transferable college credits, all expenses paid, when they graduate.
This is a school where college admittance is not a distant possibility but an established expectation. Regardless of our background, Design Science supported us in reaching new heights that were not truly recognizable until we were able to stop and reflect about what we accomplished compared to the “normal expectations” of others graduating from traditional high schools.
Joshua Castle, Design Science High School
This year’s graduating class has successfully avoided the curse of the senior slump. We have been involved in more extracurricular programs than any year before and have not stopped our participation even as the year comes to a close. Even now we are here participating in this graduation.
We have been fierce and successful advocates for positive change, and have fought against injustice both in our lives and in our community and even in our school. We value self-interest but have not abandoned our fellow students, our friends.
Samira Abed, Edison High School
PRIDE, LOVE RESPECT
My first involvement with Edison High School was during a recruitment night while I was still at Computech Middle School. I knew I would be going to Edison at the start of ninth grade, but I also knew little to nothing about high school.
I distinctly remember Mr. Riddlesprigger and Mr. Hinz talking about their experiences at Edison. The pride, love and respect they had for the school was palpable, and it was then that I knew Edison would be the right school for me.
Katherine La Barbera, Edison
KIDS FROM EVERY CULTURE
We are like a miniworld. Kids from every culture go to our school and we appreciate and have learned from each other. We share the International Baccalaureate program with kids from all across the world. And what we have learned at Fresno High is that no matter where we come from, we are accepted just for being us. Regardless of the obstacle or the adversity, we will succeed in whatever we do.
Isabel Maldonaldo, Fresno High School
WELCOME TO HOOVER
When we first came to Hoover, we were the “Freshies,” the new kids on campus. Each of us walked onto the grounds as aimless drifters, lonely and disconnected from the rest of the school. And who could blame us? We hardly know anything about Hoover.
There was a welcoming environment that we would enter each day. What we saw was this family of staff and student interaction. No one was left to face their problems by themselves. We established a home here. It has become a place of comfort, stability and security.
Ricky Fang, Hoover High School