Deer Valley High graduates Class of 2018

The Deer Valley High School graduating class of 2018. Photo by Robbie Pierce.

By Robbie Pierce

The students of Deer Valley High School, faculty, friends and family packed into Wolverine Stadium on the hot, humid evening of Thursday, June 8 for a graduation and commencement ceremony filled with themes of both congratulations and opportunities for their accomplishments.

Deer Valley teacher Robert Hubbard oversaw the event as Master of Ceremonies, and music was provided by the school band conducted by Larry Widener and the school Divine Voices choir led by Teacher of the Year Michelle Stark. After the students walked onto the field to the tune of the traditional graduation march and stood for the Presentation of Colors by Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps J.M. Jones and national anthem sung by the choir, Salutatorian Michelle Yin seated the class.

Principal Kenneth Gardner welcomed the class and audience to the ceremony, stating “there’s no other place I’d rather be in the world” than Deer Valley for the graduation.

“This class has been an amazing class… the knowledge that they’ve learned in academies and in classes will serve the rest of their life,” said Gardner.

Gardner, who retired this year, cried with joy during his speech. “It’s been an amazing ride,” he said.

Antioch Unified School District Board President Gary Hack gave the opening remarks, heartily congratulating the students but also urging them to “go upstream against the heard” and “do what you think is right, important and proper,” reminding them that while their graduation is no small feat, it marks the start of their life’s journey, not the end. Board Vice President Crystal Sawyer-White, trustees Debra Vinson and Diane Gibson-Gray, Superintendent Stephanie Anello and several District and City Officials were also in attendance as “Distinguished Guests.”

The commencement speakers for the class were Senior Class President TiaErykah Gregory and Valedictorian Rameez Mughal.

“Personally, I’d like to congratulate each and every one of you,” Gregory beamed. Throughout her speech, she stressed that students take every opportunity ahead of them whether their next step is college, career, military or a gap year and encouraging them to find their “passion.”

“Everyone has one,” said Gregory. “The only one that can keep you from a new experience of memory, is you.”

She also, somberly acknowledged that the assembled students would probably never be together again as a single unit, but celebrated the fact that before they all go their separate ways, they could be together “one last time” for their commencement.

“Congratulations, class of 2018,” she said. “We did it.”

For his speech, Mughal took a second to thank the faculty for “making our education possible,” giving special note to the retiring Gardner. He also offered encouragement to his peers while admiring the “effort” he had seen over the past four years and pushing everyone to seek out new opportunities.

“Wherever life takes you, I hope you bring that same effort with you,” Mughal said.”

Mughal also, in what he humorously referred to as “meta commentary,” discussed his initial inability to find an interesting anecdote to finish off his speech with, but how that led to a philosophic revelation for him and advising the class, “if you lack a story, write your own.”

After a musical performance of “A Blessing,” Gardner formally presented the Class of 2018 to Superintendent Anello, who accepted the class and formally certified that all present had passed graduation requirements. “Imagine” by John Lennon was performed before diplomas were presented at long last to the eager graduates by the AUSD Governing Board and DVHS faculty members Maria McClain and Allison Weihe.

The commencement lasted around an hour and a half and completed with Gregory leading the class in a traditional tassel turning ceremony, the presentation of a tassel to Gardner as a retirement gift, a few brief closing remarks by Hubbard and a recessional by the band as students and their families slowly filed out of the stadium and into the next chapters of their lives.



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