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Steve Winter receives honorary MHS diploma
Senior Monica Cruz shows off her diploma to family. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Add one more to the list of Manteca High graduates.

At Thursday’s commencement exercises, retiring Principal Steve Winter received an honorary diploma.

“But this one is a little different,” said Michael Seelye, president of the Manteca Unified school board.

Winter was part of the school’s “Tradition of Excellence.” He first attended MHS in 1961, with his diploma dating back 48 years to the present.

“It makes this guy older than dirt,” Seelye kidded.

Some 355 students received their diplomas in a capacity-filled Guss Schmiedt Field.

And for one last time, Winter had the honor of presenting the Class of 2009 for certification.

But before that, he took time to pay tribute to MUSD senior director of secondary education, former MHS principal and one-time head football coach of the Buffaloes, Bob Lee, who will be leaving the district after 33 years to become assistant superintendent of human resources at Rocklin Unified.

“MUSD will miss you,” Winter said to his former mentor. “I know I will.”

Earlier, he opened up the festivities by honoring class valedictorian Gurwinder Kaur and valedictorian Charleigh Nygaard with medals in recognition of their outstanding classroom achievement.

Nygaard, speaking on behalf of her class, indicated that Winter’s retirement made the graduation ceremony bittersweet.

She credited her principal for his “never failing support and encouragement.”

Graduation was also a time of reflection.

Kaur, who presented her valedictorian speech in poetry, looked back at that first year.

“In 2005, we came to MHS excited, happy and afraid,” she said.

Tessa Estrada, the senior class president, recalled trying to find her way around school while worrying about being late to class during her freshman year.

But much has changed since those early days.

While Estrada blamed “senioritis” for struggling to get to class on time this past year, she also gave credit to the MHS faculty.

“We made it through the year because of our teachers,” she said.

The Class of 2009 entered from the far side of the field with the playing of the processional tune as performed by MHS band under the direction of Anthony Dahl.

The colors were presented by the school’s Junior Reserved Training Officers Corp, with student body President Jordan Garcia leading in the Pledge of Allegiance and MHS band performing the Star-Spangled Banner.

In addition, Kaur, Nygaard along with Melissa Floirendo, Edith Jauregui, and Tiffany Szeto received special California Interscholastic Federation honors as announced by advisor Denise Pasion.

As Kaur put it, “So fresh, so fine, we are the class of oh-nine.”