Valencia High School’s graduation ceremony at College of the Canyons’ Cougar Stadium on Thursday night began as many graduations do — taped messages from students, the procession of students to “Pomp and Circumstance,” the pledge of allegiance with color guard being provided by JROTC and a welcome address by Principal Pete M. Getz.
But the graduates, and their friends and families, were in for some special musical surprises.
“This past year, the last few years, has been anything but a normal high school experience for any one of us sitting here tonight,” said Getz. “As a community, we believe we supported one another, we [persevered] and we succeeded together. This evening promises to be very special.”
Two moments of silence were then held, one for anyone that had recently lost someone close to them and another for VHS student Pedro Roman. Roman passed away last year following a battle with Leukemia.
After this was the ceremonial, not literal, lighting of the Viking Torch of Learning by Vanessa Gonzales, VHS Class of 2022 president.
Then came something not on the program. As Getz approached the stage for his principal’s address, he held a guitar in his hand. He plugged it in and waited for another student wielding a guitar to do the same. Then another student approached a keyboard on the side of the stage.
As Getz began playing, the student playing the keyboard began singing the opening verse of “Times like These” by the Foo Fighters. The student playing the guitar sang the next verse. Then, several students holding microphones from the audience began a choir to sing the chorus, before individually chiming in to sing subsequent verses.
It eventually turned into a full ensemble consisting of about 30 students, led by Getz. There was no formal principal’s address, this was it. The performance would be duplicated again during the ensemble’s arrangement of “I’ll be there” by the Jackson 5. In between performances, senior class speaker Thomas Kao delivered his “Viking Legacy” speech.
“Personally, I believe my strength lies in history, and I can’t wait to pursue my path down the road of reading tax records and arguing about Napoleon’s favorite cheese. Personally, I think it was Swiss,” said Kao. “But I bring up history because throughout ages, we as a species have known nothing but failure, rejection and the near endless generational cycle of the same mistakes on loop…Yet every single time we brace ourselves. We let out a war cry, and we bust down that wall like it was one big pinata and watch that sweet sense of victory wash over us.”
Following the final music performance, the class of 2022 was presented and students began to receive their diplomas. Over 700 diplomas were conferred.
“Feels great to truly come together as a community,” said David Barrios, assistant principal at VHS. “[To] celebrate them, be together and feel like we are really back to normal. You know, in the end, graduations are truly about coming together and recognizing the accomplishments of our students.”