After a pandemic altered their education, Santa Maria Valley high school graduates celebrated a relatively normal senior year before being sent off into the future.
Three ceremonies on Thursday for the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District saluted members of the Class of 2022 on three campuses in Santa Maria and Orcutt. A day earlier, the district held graduation for continuation students at Delta High School.
Santa Maria High School
Decked out in red caps and gowns, approximately 635 seniors gathered at the Santa Maria Valley High School stadium for a ceremony Thursday morning.
Graduate Jasmine Saiz, one of the student speakers, reflected on the programs and people that helped prepare her for life after high school. For Saiz, whose mom died in 2018 of cancer, that support included the love and care from teacher Rebecca Miles.
“It’s thanks to her, and all my other teachers, that I am now going on to pursue a career as a teacher myself,” Saiz said. “Thank you teachers, staff, friends and family. You’ve made us who we are. We’ve come so far. … So, goodbye Santa Maria High, and hello future.”
Other speakers were graduate Veronica Garcia DeLeon, valedictorian Elizabeth Garcia Barrueta and salutatorian Michelle Mendoza Cortes.
Principal Steve Campbell bragged about the class, noting that they coped with campus construction, COVID-19 regulations, online learning and more to make it to graduation day.
“This class has also recorded the highest percentage of students meeting A through G college acceptable requirerments in the school’s history,” Campbell said.
More than 90 graduates were accepted at California universities, 173 were accepted at California state universities, 13 plan to enlist in the military, and approximately 400 intend to continue their education at Allan Hancock College, according to the principal.
“So proud of you guys. I know you’ll go on to do great things in the future,” Campbell said.
Pioneer Valley High School
About 715 members of the Pioneer Valley High School Class of 2022 made history as one of the largest groups of Panthers to graduate.
Students donned caps and gowns in the school’s black and teal colors for the ceremony Thursday morning at the school’s stadium.
Two students earned the title of valedictorian — Angela Maldonado and Deisy Sanchez Aguilar — while Angelo Carandang captured salutatorian honors, with all three speaking during the ceremony.
Jesus Rodriguez-Torres, Associated Student Body president, and Raquel Ramirez Garcia, senior class president, also spoke along with Marlen Gonzalez Rueda.
Principal Shanda Herrera welcomed attendeees and presented the class of graduates.
Pioneer Valley, which sits in northeast Santa Maria as the district’s newest comprehensive high school, saw its first graduating class in 2007.
Righetti High School
Righetti High School celebrated 572 graduates in its Class of 2022 on Thursday, with hundreds of families, friends and other guests filling bleachers on both sides of the school’s Warrior Stadium.
The commencement ceremony began with a performance of the national anthem by Righetti’s combined choirs and the flag salute led by the high school’s ASB officers.
Student speakers included Edwin Munoz, Kiyana Brown, valedictorian Shennylee Cadiz and Tia Peterson. A performance from student Leia Miller of “Stand By Me” also kicked off the festivities of Thursday’s ceremony.
“Everything we have in high school is temporary,” Brown said. “High school itself is temporary; however, these connections that we have created are what last.”
The relationships made and the challenges faced were big themes in the student’s speeches, which also emphasized the opportunities that lie ahead of each of the graduates.
“Your high school career does not define your success in life,” Cadiz said. “High school is just an obstacle you face, a memory to look back upon. … Righetti has helped me realize how short life is and how I need to live in the moment.”
According to Principal Ted Lyon, Righetti’s Class of 2022 received nearly $855,000 in scholarships, and ¼ of the students will be attending four-year universities across the state and country. He also said 240 of the graduating students will be attending Allan Hancock College, and 12 students have committed to one of the United States military branches.
“As the Class of 2022, we pushed, shoved and Zoomed, and yet we battled our way here today,” Peterson said. “The opportunity to achieve greatness is, and always has been, in your grasp. Greatness comes from those around us, and it comes from the opportunities that life presents. Greatness starts here.”