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Graduations Celebrate Student Accomplishments
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Robert Hancock, Anastasia Sepulveda, Barbara Martin and Arielle Earle harmonize to sing America the Beautiful at the OHS commencement ceremony on May 22. - photo by Dawn M. Henley/The Leader

Thousands of people packed the stadium at Oakdale High School on Friday night, May 22, to celebrate the graduation of 311 high school students and four exchange students at the 115th Annual Commencement.

Although there were new bleachers added on the visitor’s side of the stadium this year, allowing 150 to 250 more seats to accommodate supporters, people still lined the school track and crowded along the fences to catch a glimpse of their favorite graduate.

The OHS graduates marched in to Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance” performed by the OHS band, led by Allison Davis.

Student Body President Bethany Edwards opened the ceremony by delivering the Welcome speech to her classmates and the audience. Her inspirational speech touched on how they will be entering society as adults and will no longer be school children. Edwards congratulated her classmates, telling them that graduation was “only the beginning.”

Student Body Vice President Taya Sebring then led the Pledge of Allegiance. “America The Beautiful” was performed by students Arielle Earle, Robert Hancock, Barbara Martin and Anastasia Sepulveda. Then student Whitney Smith sang the “Star Spangled Banner.”

Salutatorians Chris Gebhart and Sara Peterson addressed the class together, talking about memorable incidents and traits in individuals in the class, as well as about staff members and the influence they had on the class.

Gebhart said that these were the experiences and the individuals that will shape the rest of their lives.

“We inspired each other, we encouraged each other and we motivated each other…” Peterson said.

The Four-Year Review was delivered by leadership officers Tyler Lintemuth, Aimee Wong, Taylor Steves, and Katie Hysell, each talking about the class’ experiences for each of the four years in high school. Valedictorians Katie Zeff and Karen Molokach then took to the podium and addressed the class. The top two academic students related what was happening in school and how they all were living their lives as students when particular major events were going on in the world. They also encouraged classmates to not let negative labels stick, to open their eyes and stop texting, and also to make good decisions because life isn’t like graduation practice where they get to go through it a few times to work out the glitches.

Alternative Education — East Stanislaus High School and Oakdale Charter High School — graduations took place at the Magnolia Elementary School auditorium on May 20. There were 25 graduates for East Stanislaus graduates and 23 Charter High School graduates. Following the graduation processional, Principal Mike Riley welcomed the graduates and their families and friends. New graduate Caroline Walsh sang the National Anthem followed by Juanita Montez leading the group in the flag salute. The guest speaker for the evening was international businessman and CEO of Royal Summit, Inc. Bret de St. Jeor. He shared how a teacher had labeled him in high school as not having what it took to speak a foreign language and that he believed it for a while, but now he speaks several foreign languages. His point being, not to believe the negative things that people may tell you. He also spoke of having determination and dedication to accomplish what you desire.

“Learn to trust in yourself, believe in yourself and your own abilities,” de St. Jeor told the graduates.

Prior to the awarding of diplomas, some students were presented with Achievement Awards, Presidential Silver Awards and Gold Awards from the California Department of Education, as well as Alternative Education scholarships.

Oakdale Junior High School graduation was held on May 21, also at the OHS stadium, with 308 graduates crossing the stage to receive their diplomas. A few beach balls were tossed around amongst the graduates in celebration of their accomplishment before the distractions were subdued by staff members.

Students Kaylee Inman and Alexandra Yacoub sang the National Anthem, with student body secretary Melissa Van Dyke leading the Pledge of Allegiance. Student Janki Mistry delivered the class address, followed by Madeline Jones giving the junior high review. Students Tyler Malone and Randy Peterson then presented a class gift of a new marquee to the junior high with Vice Principal Craig Redman accepting. Principal John Simons presented the class to Superintendent Fred Rich who accepted the class. Diplomas were then awarded.