ATASCADERO — A graduating class of 245 Greyhounds made their last foray onto the field at Atascadero High School’s Memorial Stadium Wednesday, June 5, as a practiced ceremony kept to the hour mark to avoid the heat.
The weather cooperated surprisingly well for the students clad in grey and orange, with sashes denoting clubs and achievements through their years at the school.
Principal William ‘Bill’ Neely permitted himself the indulgence after four years on the job now, to note that for these graduates he was the only high school principal they’d ever known.
Echoing notes normally heard at such events from a student peer, he reflected on the many firsts he’d shared with this group along the way to this milestone. But, he remained authoritative in encouraging the students to, “Please, Dream.”
“Know that I care deeply for each of you,” he said. “Your dreams are a reflection of your desires and the reason you strive...ponder the moments you are in [carry out] your dream in the moment as well as of your future.”
There may have been more nerves on display in the moments leading up to the procession from school district officials than from the students, as both an assistant superintendent and board trustee had children graduate this year, but as the group split to opposite sides of the field to award diplomas there were noticeable moments of recognition and affection with many of the young adults.
As they lined up to take a seat before the main event, graduates showed off the decorative flourishes on their caps, many thanking parents for their support or echoing the theme of dreams by Neely.
Some of the graduates who didn’t get any particular listed symbols behind their names in the event’s printed programs never-the-less bore other markers of recognition on the field, like Lucas Crowe, one of eight graduates joining the military after graduation. Crowe signed with the Air Force after learning all he could about aerospace propulsion and taking extension courses in Bakersfield to further his future career.
Or Pilar Ortega, chapter president of the school's California Youth Connection branch. She explained as quickly as possible the organization’s goal to empower foster youth in the education system, noting that only 30 percent reach graduation.
Helping keep the ceremonies in a manageable timeframe this year, the 2019 Valedictorian Kyle De Matias also took the spot of commencement speaker on the program.
De Matias, a programmer on the school’s robotics team the Greybots Team 973, recently returned from the team’s World Championship victory and graduating with a 4.54 GPA, noted that his journey and dreams started 7,000 miles away in the Philippines before finding himself in Atascadero.
He reminded his fellows of a simile oft attributed to physicist Albert Einstein, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.”