In a hectic, pre-long holiday weekend blitz, graduations were hosted over three separate nights in Oakdale. The graduation week kicked off Wednesday, May 25 with two alternative education program ceremonies, continued on Thursday for Oakdale Junior High School (See story, photos on Page A2) and wrapped up with the Oakdale High School commencement ceremony on Friday night, May 27.
Along the way, graduates were feted, photographed, presented with flowers and balloon bouquets and got to share in a sense of accomplishment for a job well done.
Friday night, more than 365 Mustangs entered the football stadium in front of a packed house, family members and friends cheering their arrival while graduates spotted familiar faces in the crowd.
Senior Class President Jared Kahler welcomed them all to the 123rd commencement of OHS.
“Seniors, we finally made it!” he said in congratulating his fellow graduates.
He offered some thoughts on some of the things they learned, including “how to blame your pet for your failure” but then stressed how important every single lesson learned was and how much one person can mean.
“Each of us can make a difference, one blood cell at a time,” he said.
Kahler also reminded them of ethics instilled in the hallways of OHS.
“The only things that matter are the things you work for,” Kahler said.
Following a quartet of seniors performing the National Anthem and a humorous four-year class review, remarks were offered by Salutatorian Jasmine Yong.
“High school has been a place of challenge and triumph,” she said. “Tonight marks a new chapter in our lives, one we are ready to turn the page on.”
Valedictorian Michael Winders provided a self-deprecating speech, indicating he had never seen himself at a party, either, but also said he was looking back at the four years of high school with a sense of nostalgia.
He asked fellow graduates to take at least one thought with them: “Doing something with your life is infinitely better than doing nothing and looking back with regret.”
In an interview prior to the graduation ceremony, Valedictorian Winders said he has plans of attending University of California, Los Angeles this fall as a Computer Science major.
“I’m ready for a new experience,” Winders said of his feelings towards moving on to college. “I’m ready to move on to the next chapter.”
“Definitely,” Yong added. “Just meeting more amazing people, learning more about myself and the world.”
Salutatorian Yong will make her way west as a Business Administration major at University of California Berkeley.
“I just really like the campus and the environment,” Yong said of her college choice, additionally noting its top notch business department.
Winders’ older brother will be completing the Computer Science program at UCLA, just as he completes his stint at OHS. The Valedictorian shared he became interested in the Southern California campus in eighth grade while touring it with his brother.
Both graduates noted missing their teachers and the relationships they built as they move on to the next chapter of their academic career.
After presentation of diplomas, certification of the class and moving of the tassels, many of the caps were sent skyward in celebration. Then the crowd poured out of the stands to find their graduates.
“I feel good, great,” said a happy Hunter Michael Mattos, who plans to open up his own auto shop.
Surrounded by balloons and family members, Lupita Alvarado said she was feeling a mixture of “good, happy and excited” all together and was looking forward to starting her next phase, college at MJC.
On Wednesday night, the students at Oakdale Charter School enjoyed their graduation at Magnolia Auditorium, with several eighth graders promoted and several seniors graduating. Dennis Hitch, Principal of Alternative Education, said he was pleased to see a good turnout at the graduation and very proud of the work the students accomplished this year. Board members presented the diplomas and seniors were able to move their tassels as well, with all then adjourning to the cafeteria for refreshments, congratulations and photos.
A little later on Wednesday evening, the senior class of East Stanislaus High School and the Valley Oak Junior/Senior High School graduates made their way into the Mustang gym for their special ceremony.
“School for some students is not easy,” noted Hitch in welcoming the crowd. “They rose to the occasion and every one of these students deserves the diploma they are receiving tonight.”
Leader staff reporter Teresa Hammond contributed to this report.