As their class speakers and principal noted, the Golden Valley High School Class of 2021 stood amongst one another for the first time in over a year and graduated together as a collective student body Thursday.
Returning to College of the Canyons after only being allowed to hold the class of 2020’s graduation in a drive-thru ceremony at Central Park last year as a result of the pandemic, a total of 457 Grizzlies walked across the stage to say goodbye to their teachers one last time.
A total of 75 seniors graduated with honors, and school officials said their future college choices included the University of California school system, Williams College, Brigham Young University, University of Iowa and University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
During his speech to the class, Principal Sal Frias discussed how this past year — from life in isolation to seeing businesses shutter and the uncertainty — will be spoken about for years to come.
“I never thought that a pandemic would be a topic for us,” said Frias. “However, if we have not learned anything from this pandemic, then shame on us.”
Frias spoke to how Golden Valley class of 2021 was the 15th graduating class in the school’s history, and those senior students had once again contributed to the campus being named as a U.S. News and World Report “Best High Schools in the U.S.” for the fifth consecutive year.
He concluded his speech by applauding not what was learned in the classroom, but by the things taught through the incredible uncertainty the global pandemic created.
“Uncertainty exposes a lack of knowledge and pretending exposes a lack of character; live with integrity,” Frias said. “Our GV students and staff have not been together, but when we are, we model this better than anyone, and we’ve really missed this.”
Class speakers Jasmine Reblando and Shahryar Chaudhry agreed with their principal — the past year was difficult on everyone and caused them to miss so many usual senior and campus activities, but they asked their classmates to find the silver lining.
“You only graduate high school once, and to do it standing next to people here, socially distant of course, is something I will cherish forever,” said Chaudhry. “I remember walking on a campus freshman year, knowing only a handful of people, but today I feel as if I know every single one of you.”
“Despite the insanity of what we were dealt with, I don’t know if I would … change it at all,” said Reblando. “Here we realized our strengths, our weaknesses, and everything in between.”
Frias, a longtime educator, concluded his speech by telling the class what the pandemic had taught him.
“The most important thing I took (away) was this: As you live your lives, make people feel loved, protected and safe,” Frias said. “GV class of 2021, I’m extremely proud of you and it has been an absolute honor and a privilege to serve as your principal.”