One thousand and one high school students across San Luis Obispo County had their commencement ceremonies Thursday at five local schools.
From Arroyo Grande to Shandon, young students made their last appearances as high schoolers in front of friends and family.
The day’s ceremonies — replete with balloons, speeches and cheers — were a mixture of excitement, hope and joy as graduates stepped into adulthood.
Templeton High School | Click for photos »
Behind a backdrop of oak tree-dotted hillsides and Highway 101, Templeton High School roared with cheers as the Class of 2011 walked down the steps at the Eagle Volunteer Stadium.
The 173 graduates donned green and white gowns as they listened to speeches and then received their diplomas.
Senior Chiara Pasciuto said she could feel the excitement growing around her. “It’s like there’s a new beginning in front of me,” she said. “I’m just not sure what it is yet.” Pasciuto plans to attend Portland State University in the fall to pursue international studies.
The hopeful and nostalgic speeches of Valedictorian Erin Roberts and Salutatorian Chris Van Harmelen seemed to capture the moment for the many graduates.
— Tonya Strickland
Shandon High School | Click for photos »
Twenty graduates at Shandon High School celebrated in royal blue and white gowns Thursday on the West Lawn.
Valedictorian Javier Rivera Jr. and Salutatorian Andrew Whaylen Cook took honors. Senior awards were also distributed during the evening ceremony, where families cheered in support.
Scholarships were awarded for college and career pursuits. Student Daniel Dawson played the national anthem in an electric guitar solo.
— Tonya Strickland
Del Rio Continuation High School | Click for photos »
Family and friends gathered to watch 41 students graduate from Del Rio Continuation High School during a commencement ceremony Thursday afternoon at Colony Park Community Center in Atascadero.
— Sarah Linn
Atascadero High School | Click for photos »
Atascadero High School honored its 2011 graduating class at a sunny, breezy commencement ceremony.
As the graduates filed down the bleachers of Atascadero Memorial Stadium to a chorus of airhorns, many had to grab their light gray caps to keep them from flying off. They walked past family members and friends clasping cameras and cellophane-wrapped bouquets of orange roses.
Once seated, the 301 graduating Greyhounds tossed around beach balls, tortillas and inflatable toys shaped like a pink flamingo, a palm tree and a green dinosaur.
Graduating senior Megan Olshefski picked popular social networking site Facebook as the theme of her commencement speech. “High school is a social network,” she said, making references to “tagging,” “poking” and “friend requests.”
She compared the graduates’ parents to Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg and joked that most of them think of “the wall” as a Pink Floyd album, not a place to post updates. “After this day, we will take the world by storm,” Olshefski told her fellow graduates.
This year’s valedictorian was Kasey Duval. Brett Buckingham and Meredith Rickard shared salutatorian honors.
— Sarah Linn
Arroyo Grande High School | Click for photos »
Bunches of brightly colored balloons bobbed in the breeze as the 466 graduates of Arroyo Grande High strode into Doug Hitchen Stadium and took their seats.
Students gave a standing ovation to Principal Ryan Pinkerton, who is leaving after eight years at the high school to work for the San Luis Coastal school district.
Students also took a moment to honor Stephen Oliverius — known as “Coach O” — who worked as a substitute teacher and joined the football staff. He died Oct. 16 after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer earlier in the year.
Speaker Heather Beresford thanked the secretaries, librarians, counselors and janitors working at the high school.
“While the days have flashed by, the faces have not,” she said. “What I have valued greatly at Arroyo Grande High School is that I am an Eagle. We Eagles give it our all.”
A few speakers also thanked their teachers, who “are severely underpaid, yet give all their effort to help us excel,” said Kenji McKinstry, one of two salutatorians.
The school’s other salutatorian was Amanda Deering. Valedictorian Warren Crandall told the crowd to have faith in the future and beseeched his classmates to think critically and live passionately.
“These men and women, they are the future,” he said. “So seniors, no pressure. We only have to save the world.”
— Cynthia Lambert