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8 special ed students march with 79 others in Lincoln School ceremony
Vanessa Meckler and Kimberly Martinez, second and third from right, respectively, and classmates applaud as they lined up to be congratulated by Manteca Unified School District officials at the conclusion of Wednesdays promotion ceremony at Lincoln School. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

It was hard to tell which shone brighter. The shimmering afternoon sun fanned by gentle breezes, or the seemingly never-ending smile on the face of Va Perez.

That was not the only thing that made the diminutive young man with the flowing blue gown stand out from the similarly clad 78 students around him. He was clearly the smallest in the group.

Va was one of the 79 Lincoln Elementary eighth graders who received their certificates of promotion during a short but sweet ceremony held in the school cafeteria on Tuesday. He was among the eight Special Ed students who were officially promoted to the next level of education – high school.

Among the recipients of special awards presented to outstanding students were Lexi Hauser for music, and Xitlalith Herrera Sandoval and Ariana Perez in academics for posting 4.0 GPA grades. Those who were similarly recognized for their 3.5 GPA grades were Mya Blanco, Raul Chavez, Kirandeep Gakhal, Lexi Hauser, Vanessa Meckler, twins Maira and Monica Montillo Nunez, Shayenne Ocampo, Priscilla Pineda, Estafany Solorzano, Nathalie Soto, and Cesar Torres Gonzales.

Student speakers during the program were student body president Elena Montano who recounted special memories during their years at Lincoln School, Xitlalith Herrera Sandoval who spoke about what’s ahead, and Sarah Say whose message was about appreciating the many people – teachers as well as parents, among others – who helped her and her classmates get to where they are today. Montano also led the Pledge Allegiance at the start of the program.

“I know how I made it: encouragement,” Say said to the crowd of family members, friends, and schoolmates in her appreciation message. “We remember all those who made an impact in our lives.”

Representing the Manteca Unified School District for the official acceptance of the Class of 2013 for promotion were Cheryl Meeker, director of elementary education; Margaret Barnett who is director of certified personnel services, and Board of Education Trustee Deborah Romero. Along with Lincoln School Principal Sonya Arellano and teacher Bret Peterson, the district officials shook hands with all the eighth-grade promotees as they marched during the recessional to the strains of Olympic Fanfare and Theme.