Kaylene McLaughlin cruises down Third Street in downtown San Juan Bautista as part of a parade for the Anzar High Class of 2020. (Juan Reyes)
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Francisco Olivas hung out the driver’s rear side window of a car as he waved goodbye for one last time as a high school senior.

The four-year varsity soccer player along with dozens of seniors from Anzar High’s Class of 2020 on June 11 were honored with a graduation parade in downtown San Juan Bautista.

“This is better than nothing,” he said. “At least it’s not us just in our rooms in a Zoom meeting. It’s something good.”

The Anzar High administration mimicked several other schools in the tri-county area with a parade to celebrate the seniors. The parade was a substitute for the school’s in-person graduation commencement, which was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic that forced schools to shut down since March 18.

Francisco said Thursday afternoon’s parade was an overall good experience for him and his classmates. After the parade he was searching for his friends to give them one final goodbye as students at Anzar High.

“Once I was driving down here I just reminisced about all those times I had fun with my friends since freshman year,” he said. “Now it just hit me, I’m actually finished and now I have to go on a new path where I know I’ll be successful for sure.”

Francisco, who was the captain on the soccer team for the past two years, said he wants to pursue a professional career in the sport. He said he plans on joining the San Jose Earthquakes Boys Academy.

“The journey just started,” he said.

Francisco said what he’ll remember the most is meeting his friends, especially those who supported him throughout high school. He also thanked his teachers who believed in him as both a student and an athlete.

“They really pushed me hard and they did what they did so they can make me successful,” he said. 

The parade began at San Juan Elementary and made its way down Third Street where the graduates were greeted by dozens of spectators with signs and noise makers. The line of cars then made its way to the public library on Second Street where the graduates picked up their diplomas.

Maya Dizon said she had family traveling from as far as San Diego to come watch the graduation parade. She said it’s not how she expected her senior year to go but she mentioned that principal Angela Oliveira made the best of it.  

“Mrs. Oliveira wanted to put together this parade for us to try and get an actual graduation,” Maya said. “It turned out really cute. I like seeing all my friends from high school.”

Maya said it had been a while since she last saw her friends and it was great to finally graduate right alongside them.

“I’m really happy that it’s all over but I’m kind of sad at the same time,” Maya said. 

Riccardo Conte said he was proud of himself after completing four years of hard work in the classroom. He also mentioned that having the parade was better than having nothing at all.

“It was great and it was a lot of fun,” he said. “It was great energy and the weather was nice. It’s a little bit hot but hey, we’ll take it, it’s California.”

Monce Rodriguez said she was upset after learning that the high school wasn’t going to have an in-person commencement ceremony for them. It was a moment she’d been looking forward to since coming in as a freshman.

“Then when I found out we weren’t going to have it I was really sad,” she said.

Monce, who will attend Cabrillo College in the fall, said she didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to her friends like she wanted to but she understood because of the circumstances. 

Monce said she didn’t know what to expect after she heard they were having a graduation parade. She said she pictured a quick drive-thru event where they’d just pick up their diplomas and be on their way.  

But once they began driving on the main strip, Monce said she began to soak in the moment. 

“I thought it was really fun because I’ve never seen anything like it,” she said. 

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