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Celebrating Perseverance, Bishop Diego High Graduates Ready to Embrace Their Future

59 students look back on their accomplishments, then step up to accept their diplomas at 56th commencement ceremony

Bishop Diego High School celebrated the academic careers of 59 new graduates during commencement ceremonies Saturday at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse Sunken Garden. Click to view larger
Bishop Diego High School celebrated the academic careers of 59 new graduates during commencement ceremonies Saturday at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse Sunken Garden. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

Dressed in red and white caps and gowns, 59 Bishop Garcia Diego High School graduates switched their mortarboard tassels to right from left Saturday morning during the private Catholic school’s 56th commencement ceremony at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse Sunken Garden.

Class valedictorian Joanna Pacheco said parents and teachers can no longer shelter the graduates from the world. She reminded her classmates to value perseverance in life.

“The day has finally come,” said Pacheco, who plans to study biology or chemistry at Westmont College in the fall. “Just yesterday we were filling our first high school lockers with heavy textbooks. Today our role as high school seniors comes to an end.”

She reminded her peers that commencement is more than saying goodbye, the ceremony celebrates the knowledge they’ve accrued.

“As Bishop graduates and college-bound young adults, our job is to confront the evils and injustice that exist in our society,” Pacheco said. “Take up our responsibility as pilots of our own lives and steer the world toward greater destinations.”

Salutatorian Sarah Leicht, who plans to attend UC Davis to study environmental science and management, said navigating the complexities of high school was not an easy task.

“While we move forward, we should never forget how far we have come,” she said. “Along the way, we encountered countless obstacles. We survived tedious class work and last-minute projects.”

Leicht urged her fellow graduates to continue their passion beyond high school, and she said each student stands ready to take on the challenges of tomorrow. She thanked her family, faculty, coaches and peers for their support.

Principal Paul Harrington said the students are a family in every possible way.

“These young men and women understand one another, support one another and accept one another,” said Harrington, who is stepping down later this month after six years in the position.

“Importantly, they forgive one another. The respect, compassion and mercy that comes so easily to them are values adults often find difficult to display among themselves.”

Harrington introduced longtime teacher and personal counselor Sister Helen Wolkerstorfer as commencement speaker, calling her “the most treasured possession at Bishop.”

Wolkerstorfer said every student in the Class of 2016 enters a world filled with tremendous opportunity. In her speech to graduates, she told them to imagine the endless opportunities to be creators of a better world.

“The future is incredibly exciting and packed with unmanageable changes — driven by computers, software, developing sciences and technologies,” said Wolkerstorfer, who has worked at Bishop for 40 years.

The ceremony included an opening prayer, singing of the national anthem and an invocation led by a U.S. Naval Sea Cadets Color Guard. Student Summer Soto received the Cardinal of the Year Award, a mark of recognition voted by her graduating class.

Bishop board chairman Nicholas Vitalari provided concluding remarks.

“The future is waiting for you,” he said. “I know many people are unsettled because there’s a lot of uncertainty. There is tremendous opportunity. Be bold.”

Many Bishop students have been admitted to notable colleges around the country, among them Chapman University, UCLA, USCBoston College, Emerson College and New York University.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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