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Graduation Ceremonies Kick Off New Beginning
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Students from left, valedictorian Robert Winders, Leo Volz scholarship winner Paul Perrone, valedictorian Emily Clayton, and salutatorian Laurie Baxter stand during their May 25 graduation ceremony at OHS. - photo by Dawn M. Henley/The Leader

As one era of their lives has come to an end, a new era, full of promise, lies ahead for Oakdale’s graduates.

Graduations for Oakdale High School, Oakdale Junior High School, and the district’s Alternative Education program high schools recently took place and wrapped up prior to the Memorial Day weekend. As each school principal presented their respective classes of 2012, Oakdale Joint Unified School District Superintendent Marc Malone accepted each class.

Graduates from each school then accepted their diplomas from OJUSD Trustees.

Oakdale High School graduation was the final commencement ceremony in the district, taking place Friday, May 25 at the Oakdale High School stadium. The 349 seniors marched in from the north end of the stadium and then split off in pairs to walk along the track in front of their families and friends who cheered from the bleachers.

The OHS orchestra performed before the start of the ceremony and the OHS concert band performed the traditional procession of Pomp and Circumstance as the graduates walked. At the end of the evening, the OHS jazz band played a variety of big band and light popular music for the attendees.

Student Body President Haley Stout welcomed the attendees to the momentous occasion and noted that the Class of 2012’s theme was “stay classy.” Senior Class Vice President Melissa Rivera led the Pledge of Allegiance and Erin Jardine performed the Star Spangled Banner. Shortly into her performance of the national anthem, technical difficulties caused the loudspeaker system to go quiet, but Jardine adhered to the mantra of “the show must go on” and lifted her arms, encouraging her classmates, and got them to participate with gusto in singing the anthem as a collective – all without missing a beat.

Technical normalcy restored, Senior Class President Kimberly Linder then took to the podium to give the Four Year Review for her class, leading her classmates in several loud hurrahs in the midst of her speech. She spoke about how unique their class is and their individuality. She added that they will all continue to learn, grow, and evolve.

“…we step out of childhood and into adulthood,” Linder said in her wrap of the speech.

Valedictorians Emily Clayton and Robert Winders, along with Salutatorian Laurie Baxter, addressed their classmates in a shared speech. After the top academic students’ address, graduates Emily Johnson and Krystin Redd performed the song “100 years” by Five for Fighting, followed by the presentation and acceptance of the class, and then the presentation of diplomas.

Oakdale Junior High School held its graduation on Thursday, May 24, also at the OHS stadium. While the gusty winds blew a few caps off the heads of students as they marched in to the stadium, they took it all in stride and stuck with the program.

Eighth grade graduate Shylo Fields-Richardson displayed her vocal talents for her classmates and the event attendees with her performance of the Star Spangled Banner. OJHS Rally Commissioners Jared Kahler and Madison Morgan led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance.

“We are very proud of the 357 graduates before you,” said OJHS Principal John Simons in his welcome address to the crowd. He added that the students are all accomplished students, athletes and leaders.

Simons clarified in an interview with The Leader that there were a total of 363 OJHS graduates, while 357 were at the ceremony.

Class Vice President Jessica Gorman delivered the Junior High Review speech and Class President Pedro Rodriguez followed with an inspirational address to his fellow graduates.

“I consider you all my friends,” Rodriguez said in the final words of his speech. He then presented the class gift to OJHS Vice Principal Jon Webb of new basketball wall pads for the school gymnasium.

Alternative Education graduation was held Wednesday, May 23. The program includes East Stanislaus High School, Oakdale Charter High School, and Valley Oak Junior and Senior High School. Alternative Education Principal Dennis Hitch welcomed supporters to the Oakdale High School gym. Graduate Katie Northcutt led the flag salute.

The keynote speaker for the evening was former alternative education graduate, Nathan Louisana. Alternative education teacher Julie Granzella described him as someone who’s always marched to his own drummer and added that she’s admired how he’s gone about his life.

“I’m you, not too long ago,” Louisana, now 25 years old, told the graduates.

He talked about how life can come at them from all directions and get them off course in advancing their education. He explained that he had to drop out of college to pursue a career when he and his wife had a baby. However, he noted that they have re-dedicated themselves to their own educations and he’s waiting to re-enroll in college once his wife finishes her degree.

“To better my chances of promotion and success, I have to have some level of higher education,” Louisana said, adding that the notion applies to any field of work. “The more education you have, the further you can go. This is true for the military as well.”

He added that he now owns his own home but wants to go further in life and his career by eventually starting his own business and said that school provides the tools to do so. He told the graduates that the responsibility to committing to a higher education is in their hands and that they hold the keys. He followed with a question, asking them if they will unlock the door.

Following Louisana’s speech and prior to the awarding of diplomas, special awards were presented to some of the alternative education graduates. The awards included California Department of Education Presidential Gold and Presidential Silver awards, as well as the Oakdale Board of Realtors scholarship.

School starts up again in the fall for the 2012-2013 year in the OJUSD on Tuesday, Aug. 14.