Grooving to their own beat at Anzar graduation

Hanne Tonder (left) and Jessica Tidwell (right) prepare to walk into the gym for their commencement ceremony.

At Anzar High School, it’s all about individualism. When the graduates walked this week, they did so with caps touting a golf ball, flowers, fringe, a medical stethoscope and even a Mexican flag.
Students marched into the gymnasium for the 5 p.m. graduation ceremony grooving to a clip from a song of their choice, then took to their seats for a few words of wisdom before stepping out into the adult world.
Senior Jessica Tidwell’s cap had a bejeweled sheep and sunflowers, reminders of the career she is pursuing as an agriculture teacher. Tidwell, 17, went strutting into the room to the song “Crazy in Love” by Beyonce.
“I picked it because it’s very sassy and you know, I’m really sassy,” she said.
Next to her in line, classmate Hanne Tonder also prepared to walk, but she planned to enter to the song “Hooked on a feeling” by Blue Swede, a tune she and her cousin often listened to together. She said that same evening, her 13-year-old relative was walking in a commencement ceremony at Tres Pinos Elementary School and the girls were sad they could not be present at each other’s special events.
The small rural high school’s class of 2015 had students planning to attend U.C. Merced, UCLA, U.C. Davis, Cal Poly, California State University, Monterey Bay, and a variety of community colleges including Gavilan, Hartnell, Cabrillo.
“Class of 2015, you are going to amaze the world,” said Charlene McKowen, the principal.
At least one student was considering medical school. Another wanted to be a lobbyist and a third––Tidwell––wanted to become a teacher at Anzar, where she planned to start an agriculture program if there still wasn’t one in place by the time she was ready to teach.
Senior advisors, the teachers that help students plan for a life after high school, stood up to give their students parting advice.
Among them was Dan Faurot-Daniels, who told graduates to pick someone they could be accountable to over the next few years.
“That person doesn’t even have to know,” he said. “But just hold that person in your mind as you make the important decisions in the next few years.”
Colleague Brien Sparling also went up to the podium to offer advice on the next few years.
“The successes that last are the ones that you give your heart to,” he said. “So my only piece of advice is, ‘Don’t be afraid to give and invest your heart.”
In the audience, former Anzar student Sabrina Perez, 21, remembered her graduation day three years ago as she watched her sister walk.
“I remember picking a song and walking,” she said. “It feels like it wasn’t that long ago but then it feels like it was ages ago.”
Her sister, Valeria Perez, 17, will be headed to Cal Poly to study agribusiness in the fall.
“I’m really excited but nervous at the same time,” said the graduate as she took pictures with friends after the ceremony.
What was the best thing she learned in high school?
“Probably how to get along with others and how to get an essay done in one night,” she said.
Many of the ceremony speakers mentioned the way the school’s small size allowed a family of teachers and students to form.
Salutatorian Joseph Marynack, 17, addressed the crowds from beneath a cap with a single white golf ball, a fitting tribute to the sport he played for six and a half years. He urged classmates to take risks in life.
“Success is not measured by material things,” he said. “Success is measured by happiness.”
Marynack, who spent countless hours in district school board meetings as the student representative, is planning a career in politics. He will study math and economics at UCLA and then plans to pursue a career in lobbying in Sacramento or Washington D.C.
“The greatest thing I’ll take from Anzar is probably all my great connections with people,” he said.

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