Bearcats graduate: Class of 2018 moves out into the world

Touching ceremony packs War Memorial Stadium

PASO ROBLES – All flags were blowing wildly on a brisk and invigorating evening for the Paso Robles High School Commencement Ceremony Friday, as 428 graduating seniors celebrated their school careers. Paso Robles High School Band played “Pomp and Circumstance,” while the graduating class of 2018, in crimson caps and gowns, walked onto the field at War Memorial Stadium. The bleachers were packed with parents, relatives and supporters of the young students. Siblings and fellow high school peers filled every square inch of the outer field, while the whole George Flamson Area bustled with people hoping for parking as vendors set up booths to sell flowers and leis.

After the Presentation of Colors by the Civil Air Patrol Composite Squadron 446, the Paso Robles High School Advanced Choir sang the National Anthem. Brooke Metcalfe, ASB President, opened the ceremony with a touching speech on the ups and downs of high school, living a bold and honest life, and the kindness she found in the staff when she transferred to PRHS. Superintendent Chris Williams and Principal Eric Martinez followed with speeches on the many senior class accomplishments.

Assistant Principal Tom Harrington gave special acknowledgment to those 17 graduates who will enter the U.S. Armed Forces and Science Teacher Katelynn Lee recognized the seniors from other countries who spent the school year at PRHS.

All of the Board of Trustees, including Joan Summers as speaker, were there to help with the presentation of diplomas, and Senior Class President Brian Kragh addressed the audience, as well as led the “Turning of the Tassels.”

“Never let anything stop you from pursuing your dreams,” said Superintendent Williams. “Follow the momentum of your passions and convictions… We, in turn, promise to be your biggest fans while you are out discovering, learning and leading the way for tomorrow…”

Principal Martinez recapped the eventful year in his speech. “I want you to reflect on your senior year,” he said, from dances and the prom to showing resilience in more challenging times. Echoing William’s sentiments, he said this year’s graduating class is one of the finest graduating classes he’s known in his career and one – both academically and athletically – of the best high schools in the State and Nation. Joking with his grad, Martinez said they will probably miss temporary shortages of things like catsup in the cafeteria, teachers overhearing conversations with their friends, detentions and closed campus for lunch. But the number one thing they will “probably never have the chance to say again, is the phrase, ‘Because I’m a Bearcat, and that’s what Bearcats do.’”

“I wish you nothing but the best on your future endeavors,” Martinez said warmly.

Twelve seniors earned the title of “Top Cats: Summa Cum Laude,” earning grade point averages (G.P.A.) between 4.56 and 4.31. Twenty seniors earned “Top Cats: Magna Cum Laude” with G.P.A.s between 4.29 and 4.11, and 16 earned the honor of “Top Cats: Cum Laude” with G.P.A.s in the range of 4.10 to 4.00.  The academic scholars were all wearing Top Cat Medallions for the ceremony.

“I love you all...” said Mason Seden-Hansen, Class of 2018 Valedictorian, as he came to the podium for a speech he entitled “Tied Together.”

“Now, as we end our high school education, let us continue the education of our character, both understanding those around us and ourselves… We are a mix of origins, values and ideas... Each person has their own story,” he said.

Seden-Hansen recognized his peers who were DACA recipients and the challenges they faced to graduate with the class. “...There is so much we can learn from one another,” he said. “...By advocating for one another we are helping ourselves.”

Seden-Hansen graduated with a 4.56 G.P.A. and after a local Santa Lucia Sierra Club sends him to the West Coast leadership conference for the Sierra Club, he will be attending UCLA in the fall as a UC Regent Scholar, majoring in Applied Math. During his high school career Seden-Hansen was managing editor of the award-winning school publication: the “Crimson Newsmagazine,” where he made some of his best friends. His recent editorial on DACA received first place in the State from the Journalism Education Association of Northern California. He helped establish and acted as president of the PRHS Progressive Club, advocating on immigrant rights, gun control and the environment.

Seden-Hansen is the oldest of two boys. He grew up in Paso Robles and attended Georgia Brown and Flamson Middle School, where he became fluent in Spanish. His speech, among others (including Williams’ and Martinez’ speeches) during the ceremony, mixed both Spanish and English.

Salutatorian Zachary Smith also spoke at the podium on being “Forever Bearcats.”

“Tonight, we’re united...” he said. “...Let us continue to support each other no matter where our paths may go.”

Smith graduated with a 4.55 G.P.A. and will be attending Cal Poly in the fall, majoring in Biochemistry. Smith would like to become a dentist, and plans to give back to the community by providing free dental care for those who need it. Some of his activities at PRHS included participating on the varsity golf team since freshman year, being a 10-year member of the local RC Flying Club, assisting with a AYSO soccer, working as an academic tutor and youth sports photo shoot assistant, and teaching guitar. Alongside his community involvement, Smith scored 1570 out of 1600 on his SAT and has taken 12 AP classes. He also exceeds the current PRHS record for achieving the most scores of ‘five’ on AP tests.

“No excuses,” Senior Class President Brian Kragh said, adding that one of the things he loves best about his school is the diversity of students. “You can make excuses or you can make it happen…I want you to remember that we all have one thing in common that unites us. We are PRHS Bearcats and we will always be PRHS Bearcats!”  


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