The Yucaipa High School graduation ceremony commenced with words of appreciation for the late Mrs. Jane Smith, who recently passed away last month. Principal Shad Kirkland praised Smith for her “unwavering dedication to students” during her years of service on the school board and said she will be greatly missed.
Kirkland then highlighted the class of 2019’s achievements. Of the 564 graduates, 89 earned a 4.0 or higher grade point average, 33 achieved perfect attendance, 158 participated in school sports, and 164 took Advanced Placement exams. Additionally, 48 percent of the students started kindergarten in Yucaipa-Calimesa schools.
Historically strong in sports, YHS also earned several achievements in that area, including eight Citrus Belt League championships. Universities that students plan to attend include University of Redlands, Stanford, Brigham Young University, Azusa Pacific, Biola and Cal Poly Pomona, and many students will be attending schools in the University of California system. The vast majority of the graduates will be continuing their education.
“There’s a big bad world out there waiting for you to take the reins,” said Kirkland. “Luckily for you, the generations before you have created a lot of problems to solve. You’re welcome.”
Student speakers were YHS Class President Zach Douglas, YHS valedictorian Lauren Olson, and graduating senior Kailee Burkart, and the faculty speaker was Josh Simon.
Douglas began his unique speech with a prop: a plate of pancakes that he used as a metaphor for life. He described the class of 2019 as “dedicated, hardworking, and academically profound,” and he thanked “the village that raised us” for the graduates’ success, including cafeteria staff, counselors, and custodians. He also thanked Quizlet for making homework easier, and even the creators of TurnItIn.com for “forcing us to actually come up with something original.”
Expanding on the pancakes motif, Douglas said, “There’s so many different options to choose from. Don’t be afraid to try new toppings.” He also added some practical advice: “Don’t become discouraged if someone is better than you in something, because there’s someone who’s better than them.”
Olson gave the valedictorian speech. Selecting the YHS valedictorian this year was very difficult, as there were several competitive candidates. Olson earned straight A’s in the most difficult coursework all through grades 9-12, making her a super valedictorian of sorts.
Olson began her speech by thanking her friends for keeping her sane.
“We have all been so busy building our futures that we may have forgotten to appreciate the present,” Olson said.
Though Olson lamented that her experience wasn’t as much like “High School Musical” as she had hoped, she ended with a note of optimism.
“My hope is that over the next four years we will change for the better … Change is inevitable, but growth is optional.
The final student speaker, Kailee Burkart, reflected upon the experiences of the past few years and the class of 2019’s “first, last, and only high school graduation.”
“As Mr. Calbreath always said, I care more about you as a person in the real world and how you treat people than what your GPA is. Remember that our individual greatness is not measured by our material successes but our influences over others,” Burkart said.
Finally, Mr. Simon addressed the graduates with a bittersweet message about adult life.
“The greatest tool to success is overcoming adversity,” said Simon. “Nobody’s going to hit you harder than life.” He then told a story from his past about losing his home in a flood—and almost his mother—yet firefighters resuscitated her. This experience inspired him to become a firefighter and help others the way they helped his family.
Though Simon essentially warned the students that the worst is yet to come, he also assured them that good may also arise from difficult situations, and “that’s how winning is done.”
“Real life starts tomorrow,” said Simon. “I know how much you guys love each other, but you will move on and lose contact, and that’s okay. Many of your friends have now fulfilled their place in your life, and you have fulfilled your place in theirs.”
Simon concluded that the class of 2019 is “hands down the best class I have ever had the pleasure of teaching."