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Class Of 2015 Turns The Tassels
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Oakdale High Schools Daniel Davis served as conductor for the OHS Band, which performed the traditional Edward Elgars Pomp and Circumstance for the OHS graduating class of 2015. Graduates, background, get ready to take their place for the ceremony. Teresa Hammond/The Leader

Balloons were bought, flowers delivered and tears shed as over 700 students of Oakdale Joint Unified Schools celebrated with commencement ceremonies over the past week. Students of Oakdale Alternative Education, Oakdale Junior High and Oakdale High School each turned tassels as they now begin the next chapter of their lives.

Oakdale Alternative Education began the three-day celebration starting on Wednesday, May 20. The OHS gym opened its doors to the students of East Stanislaus High School, Oakdale Charter High and Valley Oak Junior/Senior High. Scholarships and honors awards were also given to the graduates.

Past student Brandon Morris served as the guest speaker. He offered testimony to the graduates on the positive and impactful effect his education has now had on his life. Now, employed as an EMT, Morris encouraged the graduates to choose a path which they are not only passionate about, but makes a difference and to live with balance.

“Never once have I heard someone say they wish they would have worked more,” he said. “Success is loving people and putting them before yourselves.”

The following evening the stands of the Corral were filled with family and friends of students who would enter the football field/stadium as Rams and leave as Mustangs as the Oakdale Junior High Class of 2015 received their diplomas. Graduate Blake Morgan addressed the graduates and audience with the Graduation Class Address. During his speech he both acknowledged and thanked parents, family, administrators and teachers for the continued guidance and support of the graduating class.

He ended his speech with a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, stating, “Watch your thoughts, they become your words. Watch your words, they become your actions. Watch your actions, they become your habits. Watch your habits, they become your character. Watch your character, it will become your destiny.”

The destiny of the OHS Class of 2015 may have been at the forefront of the minds of the several thousand filling the stadium seats, as well as walkways and thoroughfares on Friday. The attendees gathered on May 22 for a slightly breezy yet beautiful evening as the current class of Mustangs was awarded their diplomas.

Associated Student Body President Anna Perrone welcomed the crowd to the Corral and the 122nd Annual Commencement.

“This may be the end of something very special,” Perrone said, “but let us not forget the true definition of commencement: a start or beginning. I hope you all welcome the beginning of the rest of your life with open arms and a warm heart, because the possibilities are endless.”

Graduates Nelly Stastny and McKenzie Smart gave an entertaining yet accurate recount of the Class of 2015’s four-year journey with the Four Year Review, including the now famous ‘selfie’ as the two turned their cell phones on the graduates for one final class selfie.

Continuing with the humor and sentiment, class Salutatorian Emilie Crossman took to the microphone, stating among other things her thoughts on being named the 2015 Salutatorian.

“When I first began writing this speech, I realized that I really wanted to understand what Salutatorian actually means,” she said. “So naturally I turned to Urban Dictionary. Urban Dictionary defines Salutatorian as someone who just missed being Valedictorian by a few GPA points. Second place is just the first loser. The less important of two students who have to give a speech on graduation day.”

Crossman gave poignant acknowledgement to the class, administration, and family as well as the community of Oakdale for playing a pivotal part in not just the past four years of the lives of the students, but their lifetimes as well.

The Class of 2015 Valedictorian Jennifer Guzman echoed Crossman’s sentiments adding, “We are without a doubt a small town with more heart than the largest cities.”

Guzman also had kind words for those that took the stage with her as Mustangs for a final time.

“Lastly, thank you to my fellow graduating seniors, a part of the class of 2015. Together we are a force of individuals ready to tackle the world and together we are a team.

“We have faced challenges and overcome them as one,” she continued. “We have given one another unconditional support in all athletic and academic endeavors we have taken on. The greatest aspect of all however, is how we have always pushed each other to accomplish momentous achievements, going above and beyond our potentials.”

As the class prepared for the tassel turn and tossing of the caps, Guzman summed up what lies ahead.

“We must remember one thing,” she concluded. “It is never about the top 10 percent of students or the shining athletes of the class that make it special. Together we were a group of amazing individuals with an incredible amount of passion, fire and charismatic personalities to offer the world and we will make a difference.”