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Apart, yet together

 

Jamie Stewart | The Shafter Press

Shafter High's Class of 2020, masked and socially distanced, get their diplomas at a unique ceremony on the high school football field last week. The event met standards set by the state and the Kern Unified High School District. Story, more photos on Page 7. (Jamie Stewart | The Shafter Press)

Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, Shafter High School sent their senior class across the stage, ending what was an unprecedented school year where a graduation ceremony had seemed unlikely just a couple of months ago.

Wednesday, June 24, at the Shafter High Football stadium, the Class of 2020 received their diplomas, opening the next chapter in their lives.

Each senior was allowed two guests who could be seated with them on the football field. The bleachers were empty, with the full area of the football field being utilized. As the students' names were read, the student and his or her guests walked to the front of the dais, ending at the end of the stage where a photographer wait to take their picture.

Principal Russell Shipley gave a few opening remarks and introduced Student Body President Jackson Sanchez. Sanchez told the crowd that the Class of 2020 faced a year like no other in the history of Shafter High. "It started out amazing, with a big win against Wasco on this field," he said. "When 2020 hit, that is where everything would never be the same again."

Sanchez said that with everything that has gone on in the world, the fact that they made it through is a statement on how special this class is. "I honestly didn't even think that we would get this graduation, but here we are, and we look pretty darned good," he said. "If this year has taught us anything is that we can make it through whatever life throws at us. I love you Class of 2020."

Another testament to the perseverance of this class is the record-breaking number of students who are lifetime members of the California Scholastic Federation.There are 59 students in the Class of 2020 who earned this honor.

Another tradition that was honored this year was the decades-long presentation of the Stringham Memorial Awards given out to the top four students ranked in the class. The top student for 2020,with a perfect GPA of 4.50, was Clarissa Vanderpoel. The second-ranked student was Stephenia Ledezma, followed by Ethan Lopez and Rafael Acosta.

Cynthia Brakeman, a member of the Kern High School District Board of Trustees, then addressed the graduates. Brakeman said she understood that there had been obstacles and disappointment this year, and she applauded the class for handling the setbacks with class.

"One thing I would like to encourage you guys to do is, instead of dwelling on the many things that you have missed out on this year, to focus on the fact that you have experienced something that no other class in the history of the district has endured. You will have a story for the ages."

Jamie Stewart | The Shafter Press

Michelle Gurrola Quinonez with Laura and Amy Quinonez.

As each student was called,they made their way across the stage one last time as high school seniors. It was a moment of relief and pride, but also a bittersweet one for many of the graduates.

Graduate Eddie Avalos said, when asked if there was any disappointment at the moment, "At first, I didn't think it was a big deal, but once it got closer to graduation time, I honestly started thinking, 'This is it. We will never be able to experience so much of what was supposed to be a part of our senior year.'"

Michelle Gurrola Quinonez commented, "Yeah, the last part of the year kind of sucked, but we did get to have a graduation which is great."

This ceremony and last part of the year was a double-edged sword for many of the students.Although they will be remembered for their perseverance and strength, there will always be a part of them that might have preferred a more traditional end to their high school careers.

 

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