Nipomo, SLO and Paso high schools celebrate graduation

About 1,000 students from Paso Robles to Nipomo celebrated the end of their high school years Friday.

The three ceremonies at Nipomo, San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles high schools marked the end of high school graduation season this school year.

At San Luis Obispo High School, about 350 graduates accepted their diplomas during a ceremony at Holt Field. About half of the senior class plans to attend a four-year university, with 54 attending Cal Poly. An additional 154 students are heading to community colleges.

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The class was the first that Principal Leslie O’Connor, who came to San Luis Obispo in 2011, has overseen for their entire four years at the high school.

“It makes it more special on a personal level because I’ve watched them grow from their freshman year to their senior year,” he said.

The school’s valedictorian, Mila Dorji, and salutatorian, Autumn Wozniak, were announced to students during a senior showcase on Thursday evening.

Dorji, who plans to take a year off to travel, volunteer, and likely attend a Spanish immersion program in Guatemala before attending Yale, said the competition for valedictorian was fierce, with the top 10 students boasting grade point averages between 4.53 and 4.58.

Dorji told classmates not to limit themselves in life.

“I have a lot of friends from a lot of different social groups and I participated in a lot of different activities,” he said. “And that’s what has made high school such a great time for me.”

Nipomo High School

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Nipomo High School’s Class of 2015 was the first to graduate under new principal John Denno on Friday — a class of “individuals” he said, with “many varied talents.”

“They not only have their own individual strengths, but also have a very distinct self-awareness of those strengths,” Denno said. “Whether they are in audio and visual performing arts, academic pursuits or sports, they are very aware of their talents.”

Nipomo graduated 244 students this year. Of those, 94 percent will be pursuing some form of higher education, while the remaining 6 percent will go into the armed forces, enter the workforce or take time off for a gap year, Denno said. Roughly 22 percent of those pursuing higher education will attend a four-year college, 66 percent will attend a two-year college and 6 percent will go to a career or technical college, he said.

This year’s valedictorian and salutatorian are Joshua Everett Barrios and Samuel Dylan Gillespie, respectively.

Associated Student Body President and graduating senior Christine Delaby said this year has been a fun one for her class, as well as filled with change.

“A lot of people thought it was going to be hard to adapt to a new principal, but (Denno) has a really different style that I can appreciate,” she said.

Another highlight of the year for the Class of 2015 was the varsity football team winning its first-ever CIF championship, Delaby said: “That was just insane!”

Paso Robles High School

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At Paso Robles High School, about 409 students graduated Friday at War Memorial Stadium, located across town at George H. Flamson Middle School.

“We’re very proud of this senior class,” Principal Randy Nelson said. “They’ve accomplished a great deal: from the football team making it to the last leg of the playoffs to all our kids involved in Skills USA, to our students headed off to major colleges and universities.”

About two thirds of the students are college-bound, he said, with one student accepted to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Recently, 80 percent of the class told the Crimson Newsmagazine where they were going after graduation. Of those, 13 said they were staying at home to attend Cal Poly, while 148 said they planned to go to Cuesta College. Others school destinations included Virginia Tech, Bryn Mawr in Pennsylvnia, Oklahoma State University and the University of Mississippi. Two students planned to study in other countries — Mexico and Japan.

This year’s valedictorian is Emma Zelus, who finished at the top of her class with a 4.37 GPA. Taylor Ellstrom, was second in the class with a 4.30 GPA. Zelus plans to attend UC San Diego, while Ellstrom is headed to Azusa Pacific, near Los Angeles.

“I’m really excited for them and what the future holds,” Nelson said of the entire graduating class.

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