From Paso Robles to Arroyo Grande, hundreds of students graduated Thursday in ceremonies marked with speeches, balloons and anxious anticipation.
Ceremonies were held for Arroyo Grande High, Liberty High in Paso Robles and Templeton High.
In Templeton, 192 students graduated and Emily Thurston was named valedictorian. Liberty High graduated 76 students.
Arroyo Grande High graduated the largest class of seniors Thursday in a ceremony steeped in Eagle Pride.
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Blue and gold tassels fluttered in the breeze as the 495 seniors strode into Doug Hitchen Stadium and took their seats, while friends and family seated in the stands clutched flowers, bunches of balloons and air horns.
Valedictorian Jordan Hayashi said the class has spent the past four years in its nest.
“There comes a time when the eagle needs to leave the nest, and for us that time is now,” he said. “The close ties we have with friends will never be severed. We will always be remembered. We will always be Eagles.”
Several speakers listed the many accomplishments among the graduates: 57 had a grade-point average of 4.0 or above; four are bound for Stanford University and one will attend Harvard; and students excelled in the school’s athletics, robotics, arts and National FFA Organization programs.
One senior, Matthew Jacobs, was honored recently for the distinction of never having missed a day of school since kindergarten.
“We have proven not just to ourselves but to our entire community that we have what it takes to succeed,” salutatorian Claire Summers said.
Principal Tom Butler, who just completed his first year at the high school, congratulated students and staff for their hard work and determination over the past four years, calling it one of the most successful senior classes ever.
Student Martin Schindler, who was chosen as the speaker at large, said seniors have witnessed remarkable changes in themselves at Arroyo Grande High.
“The vast majority of us will strive to be what we’ve always been — remarkable,” he said. “Soon we’ll be the ones running society. If we are destined to run the world, let’s do our best, OK?”