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Ripon High graduates 216 strong
Ripon High School JROTC Battalion Commander Devin Perry, center, receives playful fond farewells from his father, Sergeant (ret.) Everett Perry, left, and Colonel (ret.) Pat Dunn after graduation ceremonies Tuesday evening at Stouffer Park for the benefit of family members who wanted to capture the moment with digital photos. The retired Army sergeant and colonel are in charge of Ripon Highs JROTC program. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

RIPON — The songs, the special messages, and their class motto all converged into one defining moment Tuesday evening for the Ripon High School’s Class of 2011.

Principal Lance Morrow, in his opening message, reminded the 216 graduating seniors for the last time the meaning of their class motto as they venture on to the next chapter of their lives.

“We cannot discover new oceans, unless we lose sight of the shore,” he told the students, clad in bright red cap and gown, gathered at Stouffer Field for the graduation ceremonies.

Morrow described this year’s graduating group as an “extremely accomplished class” as he pointed out that more than a dozen of them finished high school with a GPA that exceeds 4.0.

“There’s no telling what you, guys, can accomplish,” said the proud principal.

Valedictorian Bryson Cwick echoed Morrow’s words as he talked about the challenges that he and his graduating class are now going to face as they reach the “time to decide what to do with our lives” and “our time to experience life” as individuals.

Those messages resonated further in the words of Lee Ann Womack’s song, “I Hope You Can Dance,” sung by senior Rebecca Robison: “May you never take one single breath for granted/God forbid love ever leave you empty-handed/I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean/ Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens/Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance/And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance/I hope you dance/I hope you dance…”

The words of her song echoed loud and clear throughout the stadium even when a passing train threatened to drown her voice.

In his welcome address, salutatorian and senior class president Alecsandro Vitale noted the special quality of Ripon High as a school made up of “unique, caring and talented” individuals who immediately made him feel at ease on his first day as a transfer sophomore. He previously attended Central Catholic High School in Modesto.

At the conclusion of the short but meaningful graduation ceremonies, the students in red caps and gowns received their diplomas one by one and then marched one final time around the stadium to the tune of The Beatles’ “In My Life” before they were surrounded by a rushing wave of well wishers.