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The world is just beginning for Manteca High graduates
After receiving their diplomas Thursday evening at Guss Schmiedt Field, this exuberant group of new Manteca High School graduates huddled together before family members and friends who were armed with digital photos to capture the momentous occasion for their loved ones. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

Dallas Mould, the Manteca High School Class of 2011 valedictorian, noted in her valedictory speech what everybody in the world already knew – the world did not end on May 21, just five days before – as predicted by Bay Area radio prophet Harold Camping.

She then seized that bit of news hype as the platform for her message to her fellow graduating classmates.

“Don’t feel bad. Everyone makes mistakes. It’s not the end of the world,” she said as the audience responded to her comment with laughter.

Then borrowing from a “free quote” lifted from the Internet, she added, “This (graduation) is not the end but the beginning of a new chapter in our life.”

In a more serious tone, she wrapped up her short speech by challenging her fellow classmates.

“Dare to dream. That’s what brought us to this moment… Our diplomas are proof that we can succeed. We’re the future doctors, lawyers, engineers and teachers,” said Mould who delivered her speech sans her cap which kept being blown away by Thursday’s evening breezes that wafted through the Guss Schmiedt Field where the graduation exercises for the 362 seniors were held.

Indeed, “it’s extremely easy to give up and fail,” noted salutatorian Joseph Brandi in his speech, but “the desire to succeed brought us to this occasion.

“Our high school career is now over and we must move on and face the future,” he added.

Student Body president Alexis Griggs echoed the same sentiment in her welcome address. “Don’t take high school as the time of your life. There’s so much more to come,” she said.

She elicited laughter from the audience when she said, “Better to be a Buffalo than a Timberwolf,” referring to the choice she made as to which high school campus she wanted to continue her education.

She closed her short welcome address by asking the audience to share a moment of silence in honor of her late mother, Jowell, who passed away last year.

Manteca High’s California Scholarship Federation advisor Denise Pasion praised the 2011 graduating class which produced 22 CSF awardees this year, compared to the five conferred last year.

Manteca High School Principal Doug McCreath announced that one member of the graduating class could not make it to the commencement exercises that evening because he was in Africa. He initially started by saying two graduating seniors could not make it, but athlete Paul Fred Lyons IV managed to sprint into the football field just as the principal was making the announcement. Lyons had been in the state competitions in Sacramento earlier in the day in the 110 and 300 hurdles where he finished first in the 110 hurdles.

Following the Tradition of Excellence started by former Manteca High principal Steve Winters, McCreath asked members of the audience who are former graduates of the school to stand up and be recognized. Among the former Buffaloes who stood up were brothers Mike (Class of 1971) and Jeff Vasconcellos (Class of 1973). Their mother, Jean Blevins (MHS Class of 1950) was also present along with her husband of 57 years, George. The Blevins were at the graduation event for their granddaughter Sarah Knauss, daughter of Manteca High Honor Society advisor Roger Knauss.

The Class of 2011 was not the only one leaving the portals of the Buffaloes’ institution of learning. Along with four faculty members who are retiring this school year, Principal McCreath is also saying goodbye to the high school campus that he shepherded at the helm for two years out of his total seven-year stint at Manteca High which included five years as assistant principal. On July 1, he will officially begin his new position at the San Joaquin County Office of Education as the assistant superintendent of educational services.