Thursday, November 15 , 2018, 11:38 am | Mostly Cloudy 75º


Santa Maria Valley Celebrates Graduating Class of 2017

More than 1,900 earn diplomas from three high schools during ceremonies Thursday


With speeches celebrating achievements and challenges faced the last four years, the Santa Maria Valley’s class of 2017 graduates embarked on their journey beyond the three high school campuses.

The three comprehensive high schools in the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District held consecutive graduation ceremonies for the class of 2017 after previously holding simultaneous events.

Kicking off the day of celebration in the morning, Righetti High School's 464 graduates donned purple gowns.

“My message today is a simple one that I think gets sometimes overlooked in all the excitement of graduating, and that is don’t let this be the end,” valedictorian Sean Hollinshead said.

As he and his fellow graduates head in assorted directions, Hollinshead said wherever they end up will mark another period of growth, quoting musician Soulja Boy about putting 110 percent toward their future lives. 

“Whatever path you choose, be passionate like Soulja Boy,” Hollinshead said. “Make each and every step you take in life the best days of your life.” 

He added, “Like that one DirecTV commercial, don’t be 'peaked in high school' Rob Lowe.”

Hollinshead urged his fellow graduates not to settle, and to work toward goals no matter how long they take or how stupid they seem. 

“As my wrestling coaches always said, ‘Why not you?’”

Righetti High School graduation speakers Tori Chapman and Kirstin Rosa share their thoughts during Thursday’s ceremony. Click to view larger
Righetti High School graduation speakers Tori Chapman and Kirstin Rosa share their thoughts during Thursday’s ceremony. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

At the valley’s oldest campus, Santa Maria High School marked its 124th commencement with 520 graduates decked out in red gowns.

Valedictorian Mariana De Leon Dominguez, who plans to attend Harvard University, said she told herself as a second-grader she would be the top graduate, but figured it would be impossible.

“But impossible has only ever been a word,” she said.  “After seeing a man win the presidency even though he defamed all Mexican immigrants and after seeing the Patriots overcome a 28 point deficit to win the Super Bowl, I know impossible is possible.”

She called on the graduates to advocate and defend what they believe in, while becoming educated on issues such as immigration, agricultural literacy, civil rights, climate change and more. 

“Education banishes ignorance, and only through being knowledgeable can we make a change in the world,” she said. 

Graduate Anthony Topas said high school served as a journey toward finding out about themselves.

“Today signifies something so much more than just a piece of paper, “ said Topas. “It represents your heart and soul that you invested into your school.” 

The Santa Maria Valley’s newest high school, Pioneer Valley, boasted the largest class of 2017, with 581 graduates.

Co-valedictorian Dominique Aranda, who plans to attend UC Berkeley, urged her classmates to take risks. 

“High school taught me the importance of taking risks. You don’t achieve your dreams by playing it safe,” Aranda said.

“I challenge you to take risks. Take risks, and it’s quite possible that you will gain something great,” she added.

Co-valedictorian Erik Ruiz, who plans to attend Stanford University, also shared his thoughts.

“Without a doubt our futures are going to have plenty of obstacles along the way,” Ruiz said. “However, my dad once told me there are only two rules in life: try your best and have fun. And, if you guys follow this, you’ll be all right.”

On Wednesday, the district’s Delta High School, a continuation school, celebrated the class of 2017 and its 338 members.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully 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.

A beach ball takes flight above Santa Maria HIgh School graduation on Thursday. Click to view larger
A beach ball takes flight above Santa Maria HIgh School graduation on Thursday. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

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