It was quite the ride to say the least for this year’s San Benito High School seniors. They battled everything from distance learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic to concerns about having a virtual graduation ceremony two years straight.
All of those concerns went out the window as more than 700 graduates took part in two commencement ceremonies for the Class of 2021 on Friday at the multi-purpose field next to Andy Hardin Stadium.
Jaya Waller, who was a co-valedictorian, said she was extremely glad the school was able to provide a commencement despite it being split up into two. She gave kudos to graduation coordinator Brian DeCarli, who worked with the parent-led graduation committee of approximately 50 parents.
“It’s so awesome. I was nervous this morning but once I got up there it was awesome seeing all my class out there and everyone cheering us on,” she said. “It was everything I imagined and more.”
Waller, along with fellow valedictorians Faith Fernandez and Robin Johnson, all gave speeches.
The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Senior Class Vice President Daniela Contreras. Emma Zamora sang the National Anthem alongside Isaiah Ramirez, who played the song on his guitar. Yvette Fragozo, who was on the show “Tengo Talento, Mucho Talento” on Estrella TV, performed the song “My Way” by Frank Sinatra.
The welcome address was presented by Colby Robinson, while the ASB address was given by ASB President Alec Garcia. Senior Class President Kaiya Dickens gave the senior address, while Katelyn Sotelo read her poem “Epitome of Acceptance.”
Scholar-Athletes of the Year Sofia Lemos and Mack Richards led the tassel change ahead of the recessional.
Earlier in the school year, Waller thought they weren’t going to have a huge on-campus commencement. She imagined they’d wind up with something similar to last year when graduates were allowed to bring just two guests and it was done over the course of four days.
But the graduation committee worked on a daily basis and managed to split up the commencement into two separate sessions, which allowed for more guests to attend.
“When we all found out it was really good and I was very excited,” Waller said.
Waller thanked her parents for helping her on everything from homework to driving her wherever she needed to go.
“This is really just a celebration for everyone, the graduates and the parents,” she said.
Waller comes from a long line of San Benito alumni. Her great grandparents attended the school 75 years ago, followed by all four grandparents and both parents, making her a fourth generation Baler.
She will be attending Cal-Berkeley in the fall. She plans to major in architecture with a minor in structural engineering.
“I’m super excited about that,” she said.
Superintendent Shawn Tennenbaum said the true measure of the graduates’ excellence is how each one of them has made a positive difference in people’s lives.
“You are not only an amazing class of students, but you have inspired all of us through your joy, happiness and immense pride as students, athletes and most importantly young adults,” he said.
Principal Adrian Ramirez challenged the Class of 2021 to keep rebuilding the capacity to have a positive impact on those around them.
“No pressure but we need you,” he said. “We need you to restore human connection, to keep your word, to have a sense of responsibility for your well being and that of others…You’re ready for this challenge.”
Max Ramirez-Resendiz had mixed emotions after walking out of Andy Hardin Stadium as an alumnus, knowing that everyone would be departing on to new adventures.
“But I’m super proud of all my peers,” he said.
Ramirez-Resendiz was part of what will be forever known as the class of distance learning. A group that had to attend school in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic and persevered through all of the challenges thrown their way.
All of his classwork was switched to remote instruction and the only way to succeed was to adapt. Ramirez-Resendiz said resilience is stumbling and getting yourself back up.
He found a way to get back on his feet by putting a lot of dedication towards his studies.
“It’s definitely looking at the end goal and looking at what are the results,” he said. “There’s been so many times where I feel so unmotivated, but I knew at the end it’s totally going to be worth it.”
Ramirez-Resendiz said he’s been thinking about graduation day since the time he stepped foot on campus. He added that it’s sad to think about it now, but he knows everyone is off to great new beginnings.
He’ll be attending the University of California Los Angeles, which has been his dream school since he was a kid. He plans to major in sociology with a minor in entrepreneurship.
Ramirez-Resendiz’s dream is to become a CEO of either a current company or create his own. He said the whole purpose is to make money but aside from that it’s knowing where to allocate it.
He wants to study how society functions and look at the flaws that include poverty, racism and hunger. He currently has a minimum wage job and he takes whatever he makes to give back to the community by providing food, blankets and gift cards to purchase goods.
Ramirez-Resendiz believes that studying both subjects will help him reach his goals and UCLA is the place to do it.
“It paid off through hard work and dedication, and definitely resilience,” he said. “I’m super proud and it’s one of my greatest accomplishments.”