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Advice for Manteca High graduates
MHS GRAD9 5-26-12
Graduate Kendra Shields looks to the crowd after receiving her diploma - or lack of one - during Fridays Manteca High graduation ceremonies. The actual diplomas are distributed to students the week following graduation to make sure all accounts are in order. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Manteca High co-Valedictorian Myklyn Balmut didn’t want her fellow graduates walking away Friday night thinking that there was only one definition for commencement.

That wouldn’t have meshed with the imparting wisdom that the University of Southern California-bound scholar athlete had in store.

While it does in fact imply an area where granting of academic diplomas is standard – as was the case at Guss Schmiedt Field Friday evening – it also, she said, implies a beginning.

And while none of those that heard their name called before the cheers of their family and friends Friday night can say for sure what the future will hold, Balmut urged all of them to keep their education meters running regardless of how they have to do it.

“My final words to you are simple – never stop learning. Continue to be a student because success is born through education,” Balmut said. “The world has so much to teach us if we allow ourselves to be open to learning.”

Fellow co-Valedictorian Nicole DeLeon reminded the graduates that their diplomas signified “a symbol of the perseverance – the change we have undergone.”

But then there were the somber moments of the evening as well.

Kendra Shields held back tears when recounting the life of John Robert (JR) Gibson, who passed away of cancer during his sophomore year, and pointed out the lone empty chair on which his parents placed flowers – with his father, teacher John Gibson, looking towards the heavens and signaling before wrapping his arm around his wife and walking her back to her seat.

She recounted how after working so hard to overcome the challenges that came with being autistic, and making great inroads, his life was tragically cut short – something that will prompt her to spend some of her time working with developmentally disabled youth in the future.

Just six years after Manteca High saw the number of its California Scholarship Federation Sealbearers dwindle to only five, they awarded 24 students prestigious awards Friday night.

And nobody could have accused Salutatorian Lisa Yun of being boring with her address to the graduating class.

In her brief time at the lectern Yun drew laughter and even a few cheers when she quoted her favorite “little green man” Jedi Master Yoda –  “Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.” – and kept things light-hearted when she opened up by saying it would be the memories and not her speech that people would remember in a decade.

The best part, she said, is that the future of everybody there that night is still unwritten.

“We can write the story and we can call it whatever we want to – we can call it Version 1.0 – as long as we make it a better story than Twilight. Live long and prosper.”