Graduation adjusted to beat the heat

San Benito High ceremony set for Friday

Hundreds of San Benito High School students will score a goal on the soccer field in caps and gowns Friday morning.

Registrar Miriam Mendoza said 649 seniors are expected to graduate from the school Friday. Last year’s graduating class was 679 students.

The ceremony begins at 8:30 a.m. this year, a couple hours earlier than years past. The staff is still anticipating a two-hour ceremony.

“It’s been discussed and on the plan for a while now,” Graduation Coordinator Laurie Chavez said. “What we’re doing is trying to alleviate issues that come with the heat. In the past, we’ve had issues with some guests being dehydrated.

“Two hours out there for some is a long time. What we’re trying to do is cut back on that and see if it makes a difference.”

The ceremony is still set to take place on the soccer field next to the football stadium, Chavez said. Graduates, meanwhile, will leave the school with a diversity of pursuits.

Substitute Career Specialist Lorena Fernandez said the class of 2017 has a keen interest as a whole in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, also known as STEM.

“A lot of students are mentioning STEM,” Fernandez said. “Our FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) applicants went up about 10 percent from last year, which means they have some sort of goal like going to either a vocational, two-year or four-year school. That’s a huge win.”

Some San Benito High students will go off to schools like San Jose State; the University of California Berkeley; California State University Monterey Bay; and Georgetown University.

Gavilan College attendance numbers are higher than everything else, Fernandez said.

“This senior class is really good,” she said. “The majority of them know where they want to go next year.”

After accepting diplomas and throwing caps, graduates can party from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. in the school gym for sober grad night. The event is held in conjunction with the school and the Sober Grad Committee, a group of parents who volunteer to put the event together.

“It’s all night and free of charge to the kids,” Sober Grad Committee Chairman Rick Espino said. “We’re one of the few schools that doesn’t charge for sober grad.”

Espino said the event keeps teenagers off the streets on a night associated with drunk driving.

“Ours is truly sober grad,” he said. “Kids are checked at the door to make sure they’re sober when they come to the party. After 11, they can’t leave unless a parent comes to get them. We have over 350 kids that stay until 3 or 4 in the morning.”

Forty to 60 parents will volunteer at the event, Espino said, and the Hollister Police Department will be in attendance.

Festivities include an all-night deejay, four adult-sized inflatable bounce houses, ping pong, air hockey, various arcade games, two face painters, an airbrush tattoo artist and more. Food includes a taco bar, tri-tip sandwiches, hotdogs and popcorn.

“We’ll have a poker tournament where kids could win up to $150. There’s no buy in for that,” Espino said. “All through the night we raffle away prizes. We give away about $9,000 worth of prizes. Our goal is to raise $20,000 every year and right now we’re $20,000-plus. All that comes from donations from the Hollister, Tres Pinos and San Juan Bautista communities.”

It takes around $18,000 to put on the event, Espino said.

This year, the committee received a $2,000 grant from the Community Foundation for San Benito County and $2,000 from the Monterey Peninsula Foundation. Local businesses contributed $6,000.

With over 300 business donation letters sent out, about 80 responded, Espino said.

“When people see what a good thing we provide for our high school kids, they’re more than happy to provide something we can share with the kids,” Espino said. “Our 2017 committee thanks the communities of Hollister, San Juan Bautista and Tres Pinos for supporting sober grad.”

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