Friends and family members cheered Thursday as more than 1,000 students at four San Luis Obispo County high schools participated in commencement ceremonies.
The classes of 2010 at Arroyo Grande, Atascadero, Templeton and Shandon high schools reminisced while looking forward to their futures as parents and friends snapped photos and dabbed moist eyes.
The ceremonies ranged from a large gathering in Arroyo Grande to a more intimate celebration at Shandon High School, where valedictorian Matthew Schuman and salutatorian Andrew Easterbrook were among 26 who received their diplomas.
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Arroyo Grande High School’s graduation ceremony featured a beach ball, air horns and blue robes — 502 of them, to be exact.
Friends and family packed the bleachers at the high school’s Doug Hitchen Stadium as the graduates filled hundreds of seats on the field.
Valedictorians John Castello and Briana Lippert — who said they shared a friendly rivalry throughout high school — also shared their speech, urging the seniors to take what they’ve learned from their school’s competitive nature in sports and academics and make it a driving force to succeed after graduation.
“Never settle,” Castello said. “Strive to be innovative and continue to compete.”
Sydney Johnson, the graduates’ speaker-at-large, noted how her classmates had matured during the past four years through an awkward transition into high school to becoming “strangely overconfident.”
“We must express our gratitude and appreciate a glorious four years,” she told a crowd that included actor and Arroyo Grande High School alumnus Zac Efron, who watched from the press box as his younger brother, Nicholas, graduated.
Fifty-two of the seniors graduated with a cumulative grade-point average of more than 4.0, Principal Ryan Pinkerton said.
Sunny skies and a light breeze graced the Atascadero High School graduation, held Thursday afternoon at Memorial Bowl in Atascadero.
Proud parents and siblings sounded air horns, shook bright orange plastic pom-poms and held up homemade signs as 314 graduates-to-be filed past the bleachers.
Many of the students, clad in light gray robes and mortarboards, decorated their hats with artificial flowers, buttons, glitter and even a piece of yellow plastic caution tape.
The playful mood continued after Principal E.J. Rossi and the Atascadero Unified School District Board of Trustees honored valedictorian Ashley Keezer and salutatorian Kelsey Ryburn.
When graduating senior Claire Edmonds took the podium for the commencement address, students briefly passed around a bouncing beach ball.
Edmonds spoke about the colorful future that awaits the class of 2010, comparing her fellow Greyhounds to a bright palette of greens, purples and pinks.
“My hope is that you color outside the lines, that you learn passionately and love recklessly,” she said. “No matter what colors we choose to create, we will always be a little orange and gray.”
Seniors Becky Crossland and Katrina Hernandez anxiously awaited their entrance into Eagles Volunteer Stadium in Templeton.
“I’m thinking about all the memories we had (here),” Crossland said as she adjusted her white graduation cap. The pair shared plans to study nursing.
For senior Nick St. John, the day couldn’t have come sooner, he said.
“I just want to reach my goals,” he said, including plans to attend Cuesta College.
For the graduating class — 182 received diplomas, including valedictorian Ryan Elliott and salutatorian Ayesha Rasheed — bonds shared are among the most memorable, senior Justin Reece said.
He knows he’ll look back on the football games and times he and friends “just chilled and had fun,” he said, just before the teachers cued the students to get ready.
Outside, crowds waived signs expressing love and congratulations as the students filed down the stadium steps and into the Hawaiian-themed ceremony.
Paper palm trees lined the sidewalk, and plastic grass and colorful hibiscus flowers swayed in the wind.
Rasheed said that it felt like she and her classmates had waited four years to graduate. And now that it had come, she added, they wished they could hold on to high school just a little bit longer.
Tribune staff writers Cynthia Lambert, Sarah Linn and Tonya Strickland contributed to thisreport.