Salute to high school grads from Cambria to Arroyo Grande

Arroyo Grande High School's Class of 2016 graduation

Family, friends and students celebrate as 492 seniors turn their tassels at Arroyo Grande High School's commencement ceremony on Thursday, June 9, 2016.
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Family, friends and students celebrate as 492 seniors turn their tassels at Arroyo Grande High School's commencement ceremony on Thursday, June 9, 2016.

Almost 900 members of the Class of 2016 celebrated the end of their high school careers Thursday in ceremonies from Arroyo Grande to Cambria.

Arroyo Grande

Arroyo Grande High School celebrated 492 graduating seniors at its ceremony, saluting a class made up of high-achieving and competitive students, according to principal Conan Bowers.

“This class has been one that has been successful in a lot of different areas,” he said. “They are also a very close group of kids who enjoy being part of a giving community. They are respectful of each other and they genuinely know how to be kind and and how to be gracious.”

This year’s valedictorian is Kunal Ranat, and the salutatorian is Griffin Berlin.

Of the graduating seniors, 71 had a grade-point average of at least 4.0, while 289 had a GPA of 3.0 or higher — the highest totals ever at the school.

Bowers said of those who have informed the school where they will be going in the fall, 167 are going to four-year universities: 89 to California State Universities like Cal Poly, 34 to schools within the University of California system and 44 to private colleges.

About 119 are going to attend Cuesta Community College, while 73 are going to other community colleges. Eight students are joining the military.

Bowers also noted the class’s competitiveness: This year they won 13 of the 22 championships in the PAC 8 (the next closest was San Luis Obispo High School with five and then Righetti High School with three); they won Mock Trial at the county level and finished 13th in the state; four seniors finished in third place at the Destination Imagination world championships against 20,000 competitors; Speech and Debate will travel to Thousand Oaks to compete this summer; Skills USA computer animation will be traveling to Nashville to compete in the world championships; the school’s color guard won several competitions and competes at a high level; and the theater students “put on world-class plays,” he said.

Morro Bay

Morro Bay High School honored the commencement of 186 seniors on Thursday.

This year’s valedictorian is Syler McCarty and the salutatorian is Nigel Archer.

Morro Bay High School honored the commencement of 186 seniors on Thursday, June 9, 2016.

“Morro Bay High School is so proud of the Class of 2016,” Principal Kyle Pruitt said. “These young men and women represent so much individual potential in so many diverse areas. They are thoughtful, caring and skilled. All the best to the Class of 2016.”

Of the Class of 2016, 109 will be attending community college, 27 will attend a California State University or University of California campus, 11 will attend private universities, five will enroll at out-of-state universities, three will attend foreign universities, five graduates will join the military, nine will join the workforce, and two will attend trade schools, among other post-graduation choices.

Coast Union

Forty-eight seniors said goodbye to Coast Union High School at a graduation ceremony in Cambria on Thursday afternoon.

Valedictorian Xue DiMaggio, who plans to attend UCLA, urged her classmates to “follow your passions, follow your dreams and see them through to fruition.”

Coast Union High School's Class of 2016 graduated in a ceremony held Thursday, June 9, 2016, in Cambria.

Co-salutatorians Katrina Cleave, Reagan Kniffen and Alexis Mireles took turns reading from a Dr. Seuss-style book of reflections, concluding together with the words, “That’s it, that’s all, this is where we part, but we will always be Broncos at heart.”

The class included 14 California Scholarship Federation life seal bearers, 15 Golden Seal Diploma recipients and four recipients of the State Seal of Biliteracy.

Students also received a variety of scholarships. Graduates will be attending a range of two- and four-year colleges and universities, including Cuesta, Cal Poly, USC, Sonoma State, Oregon State and UC Merced.

Pacific Beach

Pacific Beach High School in San Luis Obispo held a ceremony Thursday to mark the graduations of 46 seniors.

The school doesn’t name a valedictorian or salutatorian. The school’s Principal’s Award for academic excellence went to Rachel Ericson, who also received the John Gyselbrecht award representing the “best of human spirit.” Gyselbrecht was a teacher at Pacific High who died last year of cancer at the age of 47.

Pacific’s Green and Gold Award for perseverance went to Maricela Mendoza, Noah Miller and Rodrigo Alvarado.

The school will send 30 of its 46 graduates to Cuesta College, and collectively those graduates have received $24,000 in scholarships.

“I’m as proud as I’ve ever been of a graduating class,” said Principal Andy Marinello. “They supported each other and when the white-knuckle time came, they really pulled together and did the work. They’re a group of good kids.”


Liberty and Independence high schools celebrated the academic achievements of 118 graduates Thursday at a joint ceremony in Paso Robles.

Ninety of the students were Liberty graduates and 28 earned their diplomas from Independence. Ninety-two of the graduates walked at the Thursday ceremony, said counselor Tina Lessi. Because Liberty and Independence are continuation schools, students can complete their degrees whenever they’ve earned their required credits, she said.

Monique Tuuri and Savannah Marcum led the classes as co-valedictorians. The schools don’t name salutatorians, but four students from each school were given Principal’s Awards. Liberty’s awards went to Sonny Flores, Hayley Rainey, Hannah Skinner and Vivian Marlow. Independence’s awards went to Genevieve Higuera, Natalie Martin, Sonia Nevarez and Zach Varian.

About 35 of the graduates will attend Cuesta College in the fall, Lessi said. One graduate plans to enroll at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at least three will join the military, and many will find employment.

Lessi said “connectedness” is a word that comes to mind when she thinks of the Class of 2016. All of the students have overcome a lot to earn their diplomas, she said.

“They really, really care about each other,” Lessi said.

Kaytlyn Leslie, Nick Wilson, Lindsey Holden and Kathe Tanner contributed to this report.

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