Although the 2012 seniors are the second graduating class of , they leave a legacy all their own.
This class built upon the framework of the first class that went before them, creating clubs, becoming founding players of , and helping earn their school its first .
The graduates of 2012 rose to the challenge of making their school unique, and succeeded in leaving San Juan Hills with a strong example of , said Principal Tom Ressler.
Family and friends filled the 4,984-seat Bren Center at University of California, Irvine, creating a roar of applause at the first sight of the jubilant seniors right on time Wednesday evening. Teachers in black and gold lined the center of the court to greet each of the near 450 grinning seniors.
“I’m the very proud principal of San Juan Hills High School,” Ressler said.
Ressler offered a special honor to the 44 valedictorians who stood tall in white robes, and congratulated 2012 Stallion of the Year Michelle Almanza before introducing Senior Class President Colbie Racobs to lead the Pledge of Allegiance.
Health and Yoga teacher received student cheers for her Teacher of the Year recognition during the opening events.
Before audience members had a moment to sit, choral sounds bounced off of the stadium walls with "The Star Spangled Banner" sung by the Vocal Ensamble, directed by teacher Victor De La Cruz.
Seniors Alexis D’Epagnier and Brooke Soto joined their senior choir members to the stage to lead the Chamber Choir in a second, more personal song. Tender voices sang “For Good” from the Broadway show Wicked.
“Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the number of moments that take your breath away,” Ressler quoted from Mark Twain.
“No matter where you may go, you have the power to make a difference,” said Ressler. These words were the catalyst for a ceremony centered on upward momentum toward the future.
Senior Kelly Delgadillo took one of San Juan Hills’ mottos to heart “At San Juan Hills It Matters” with her opening speech motivating her classmates to rise to every opportunity to better the world around them.
“When I entered high school, I wanted to change the school to make it a safe and inclusive space for students,” said Delgadillo. After considering this goal accomplished Delgadillo went on to say, “Character does not come from awards, it comes from challenge.”
Delgadillo roused cheers from her fellow seniors referring to the rest of their lives, “with the 80 percent we have left ,we need to conquer Mount Everest. Class of 2012 are you up to the challenge?”
Second speaker Marc Urbino acknowledged that he had only been a Stallion for two years, having come from Capistrano Valley High School in Mission Viejo.
“I was a shy guy… but then I came to San Juan Hills,” said the second speaker, senior Marc Urbino.
To the faculty’s delight, Urbino attributed his outgoing personality to the opportunities offered through the large variety of extra-curricular activities. But now it's time to stand up on their own.
“There is no more Mr. [Darren] Jindra to rather frequently remind us of what’s ahead,” he said, referring to the school's assistant principal and disciplinarian.
“All of us have the potential to be in life’s hall of fame,” said Urbino, concluding his baseball analogy about stepping up to bat against the pitcher, “Adversity.”
An Excelling Class
With the to many of the seniors, the potential for success is high. Among the 160 college acceptances were nearly every University of California and California State University campus, along with Cornell, Duke and New York University.
Ninety-four of the 436 graduates received Advance Placement merit, having taken five or more AP courses, with at least two during senior year, and 60 graduates made National Honors Society.
While some student speakers quoted men of great character, such as John F. Kennedy, Henry Fonda and Henry David Thoreau, Urbino gave the audience more laughs when he quoted that famous philoospher, Justin Bieber.
"Never say never."
“Just like our , our class is just getting started. It is our time to leave a legacy,” Urbino said, referring to the football stadium now under construction. The school will have its first at-home home game in August.
Mothers throughout the stadium gave an affectionate “aww” to Urbino’s, “everyone here is part of the same herd. You are all part of my ohana.”
“Take life by the reigns and prance off into the horizon, the sunset that is our future. …we’re Stallions baby,” Urbino concluded in a stallion’s prance.
Dominick Wong, 2012 Scholar of Scholars, reigned in the last of the commencement speeches with wit and a professional flare.
“I’ve been wracking my brain for some universal experience that we have shared in the past four years,” he said. He realized “we are such an undeniable diverse student body.”
Because the students' interests are equally diverse, it took him some time to find the common ground. Then it hit him: "We all leave."
It was a literal reference to ending the school day and dealing with the stampede to get down the trail or traffic to navigate Avenida La Pata. But it was also a figurative reference to what the Class of 2012 was about to do in mere mintues.
“We each left our childhood at that doorstep,” Wong said, pointing to the stadium doors, “and when we each leave here we must all be adults.”