Over 550 graduates from Valencia High School took the stage at College of the Canyons’ Cougar Stadium to receive their diplomas on Friday — but in doing so they also dedicated themselves to their motto to be forever students.
The school’s motto, “Forever Learning,” was a common theme among the speakers of the event, who said its message helped carry them through their experience while at Valencia, including the pandemic.
“At first we thought the COVID pandemic had given us an extended spring break but eventually the outside world became a hazard and we slowly retreated to our caves,” said Kenton Goo, one of the senior class speakers. “As sophomores our eyes are glued to a screen… Our world was limited to those dreadful breakout rooms… To cope, we hoped changing our Zoom backgrounds would somehow make us stand out. The rise of technology was so clear, yet our identities are so clouded.”
However, Pete Getz, principal of Valencia, didn’t wish to dwell on it, saying it would be “a bit cliche” to talk about the triumphs through the pandemic like “every principal on the planet.”
“What I’m here to discuss is how we have, you the graduating class, ended up sitting here today. It is true you demonstrated resilience, compassion, opportunity, focus, support, tears, challenge, love and a desire to return to normal, whatever that was going to be,” said Getz. “That’s all important for sure, but I think we forget to recognize a significant piece of the puzzle — you see it was your ability to celebrate and recognize the value of success more than anything else that led us here today.”
As with every Valencia graduation, the tradition of passing the torch of learning from one class to another was carried out once again. This time the class of 2023, represented by Alexis Kuncar, class president, and Connor Lee, valedictorian, handed the torch off to Ava Francis, class of 2024 class president, and Pranav Basney and Shweta Jinka.
“We the class of 2023 have faithfully upheld the traditions that are embodied within this torch through our dedication to academics, leadership and striving towards success,” said Kuncar. “Although our journey through high school has many times been plagued with challenges, the lights from this torch and its values have consistently guided us to this day and will continue to brighten our futures as it leads us to success.”
“We, the class of (2024) are honored to carry the torch of learning to carry on Valencia’s high standard of achievement and to carry on our search for wisdom,” said Francis. “The class of 2023’s exceptional accomplishments will be difficult to match, but the class of (2024) is ready for the challenge.”
Following the passing of the torch, the Flame of Inspiration award is given to the teacher of the graduating class’ choice. The teacher awarded the honor must have “inspired students to pursue the biggest hopes and dreams” to earn the award. This year, the honor was given to Tiffany Bernier.
Following the graduation, Domenic Barabas, a graduating senior, also wanted to thank his teachers for helping get to the stage that night.
“It feels amazing to be graduating. It’s a big accomplishment, working for it for four years,” said Barabas. For me, my most challenging part was trigonometry, it was the hardest part. But a big thank you to my teachers that helped me out and making me pass.”
Music was provided by several student singers, the Senior Class Vocalists and the Symphonic Band led by Kelvin Flores.