Even with a breeze that kept all flags at full mast it was a warm evening celebration at Paso Robles’ War Memorial Stadium Friday, June 7, for the 2019 Paso Robles High School Commencement Ceremony.
Their senior quote for the year channeling theologian C.S. Lewis, “you can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending,” was apt for a class that speakers noted had experienced struggle and pain this year.
While the school district asked students not to don ostentatious celebratory displays on their gowns for the ceremony, many in the procession did wear subdued black ribbons to recognize the loss of one of their friends. The ribbons remembered Emilee Ruiz, a 17-year-old Paso Robles student who died suddenly in a traffic accident on March 5.
With speeches from Associated Student Body President Marshall Wiesner, Senior Class President Shane McGuffin and four Valedictorians, Sara Owens, Finley Burns, Esther Cabello and Fatima Jorge-Chavez, those gathered heard quite a bit about what it meant to spend, for some, 13 years in a tight-knit community. It's one, they said, they knew would always welcome them home again.
Now, however, said Owens, was the time for them to be the generation of change.
They had already faced that truth in their classrooms, seeing changes the graduates could be proud of, in facing down prejudice and discrimination, noted Cabello, they now enter a broader world thick with those challenges.
Though they’d experienced heartbreak too, Burns said, she now felt the Bearcats graduating this year had been brought closer together than they’d ever been.
And for getting them to this precipice in life McGuffin spoke to the parents, families and community, thanking them directly, “we all love you so much...we’re young adults now...ready to be leaders in our fields.”
Superintendent Julian Crocker and Principal Anthony Overton cited statistics in the addresses while reinforcing the, “once a Bearcat always a Bearcat,” message noting that out of 408 graduates this year, 13 members of the student body were enlisting in a branch of the armed services, 160 were being awarded scholarships for continuing education, with the scholars dispersing to 54 colleges around the nation. The four valedictorians are staying in California but headed to different parts with, UC Davis, UCLA, USC, and San Diego State represented.
Exchange students graduating as Bearcats this year include foreign nationals from as far away as the Netherlands, Brazil and Japan.