Cherishing memories forged in the last four years while inching with anticipation toward what the next four may bring, La Cañada High School’s graduating seniors bid adieu Thursday to their alma mater.
The ceremony unfolded traditionally, but this year’s event held one note of distinction — this year’s class is the 50th to pass through the institution’s hallowed halls since the school held its first commencement in 1965.
Assembling in sunny evening haze, the class of 373 students sat resplendent in cardinal and gold gowns and mortar boards, the tops of which heralded selected universities or personal statements like a mouse-eared “I’m going to Disneyland” or “Peace out.”
As friends and family members clamored in the bleachers to find perfect photo angles, Class President Anna Frederich and ASB President Sarah Borland highlighted the year’s crowning achievements.
Borland spoke with aplomb about her classmates’ transformation from lowly freshmen to top dogs, promising their next freshman year in a few months would be much better.
Frederich recalled the drama club’s rendition of “Fiddler on the Roof,” the school’s Chamber Singers being featured on National Public Radio, and the historic selection of two LCHS Rose Princesses in the Tournament of Roses’ royal court — a 100% increase in royalty from the previous year, she joked.
“I can say the class of 2014 can graduate with zero regrets,” Frederich said. “Without a doubt, our class lived every day of this last year with gusto.”
After a heartfelt rendition of the Beatles song “In My Life” by chamber singers and concert choir members, Borland led the class in acknowledging one student for overcoming unthinkable challenges to walk in this year’s ceremony.
Senior Melissa Leo, diagnosed earlier in the year with an aggressive form of leukemia, participated in the day’s festivities.
“Melissa Leo, we are so happy that you are here. We love you so much, and each and every one of the 373 kids next to you is pulling for you,” Borland said.
Seated in a wheelchair for most of the program, Leo would later walk unassisted down the aisle to claim her diploma, receiving a standing ovation from graduates and raucous cheers from the bleachers.
In his turn at the podium, LCHS Principal Ian McFeat enumerated the excellence of this year’s cohorts. In addition to receiving more than $5 million in scholarships, the class of 2014 earned an average GPA of 3.75, with the top student netting a whopping 4.81.
McFeat also congratulated the seniors for their philanthropic achievements. In a March fundraiser for St. Baldrick’s Foundation, the class raised $12,000 in donations for children’s cancer research, and put another $20,000 into a “Diamond Investment Fund” to provide scholarships for future grads.
“Graduates, you are an accomplished class,” McFeat told students. “On behalf of the 110 faculty and staff of this school, congratulations to you on this supreme accomplishment as you graduate today — Go Spartans!”
After all the students had received their diplomas, friends and family spilled onto the field in an effort to pinpoint their grads amid the fracas. Some held giant poster boards with pictures on them, while others climbed atop shoulders to call out above the crowd.
As the happy grads mixed and mingled, little brothers and sisters tried on mortar boards and moms and dads directed group photo combinations.
Justin Fong posed as his family snapped shots of him and his cap, decorated with a tiger and the word “Oxy” showing fealty to Occidental College, where he’ll attend come fall. He said he saw the school as a good stepping stone on his path toward a degree in law or social justice.
“Obama went there,” Fong added. “That’s a bonus. Pretty cool.”
While he will be attending the school’s Multicultural Summer Institute, a study program designed for just 50 incoming freshmen, Fong says his more immediate goals involve some much needed R&R.
Fellow senior Dillan Williams has other plans. The graduate is in the process of being tested to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps, and admits he’s a little anxious to see what’s next.
Still, he imagines one day, he will look back fondly on his time at La Cañada High and the people he met there.
“I’ll miss the people here,” Williams said. “Not too much the school itself, but all my friends.”
Follow Sara Cardine on Twitter: @SaraCardine.
ALSO:Copyright © 2015, CT Now