East Union High School Valedictorian Francesca Ball is no stranger to high school graduation ceremonies.
As a member of the band, Ball has been there – on the grass at Dino Cunial Field – as high school seniors walked into the stadium as high school students and walked back out as graduates ready to take on the next chapter of their lives.
But on Friday, Ball got to give up the seat in the middle of the band section or one out on the grass, walking those same steps as those that came before her – something that she spoke about in her speech to her fellow graduates as they spent their last evening together as Lancers.
“Every year, I sat there, in the clarinet section, the same view of these rows shifting across the stage for their diploma. That was my comfortable seat at graduation – I don’t sit there anymore,” Ball said in her speech to her fellow graduates. “Families, after tonight at the dinner table, in the car, you may notice an empty spot because all our seats are changing. Walking into this graduation, I thought I’d miss my place in the center of the band – I had a great view doing something I really enjoy, surrounded by people I love. Sitting down in these rows, I realize this seat is better – not because my cheeks weren’t burning from playing Pomp and Circumstance 12 times, but because I could hear the band better. Instead of focusing on just my part in my small section, I could hear every section completely – now I hear the song, not the part.
“Graduates, we will now have more seats than ever before. We’ll see so many new places it’ll be hard to find comfort, and they won’t compare to the small, comfortable spot we have at home. But with more places comes more opportunity, more friends, more experiences, and more insight. We’ll leave a comfy seat to find a better place.”
In all 378 students received their high school diploma on Friday night as they crossed the threshold into adulthood having completed their formal public-school education.
And East Union did its best to get everybody involved with the graduation ceremony.
After the Pledge of Allegiance led by Senior Class Vice President Julia Vezaldenos, the National Anthem was sung by Lydia Lumley before Senior Class President Shubnaz Jagpal welcomed the students and their friends and family to the commencement ceremony. Special recognition and the introduction of special guests was handled by Senior Class Secretary and Treasurer Rayanna Hester, while Associated Student Body Treasurer Kaleigh Vautour discussed the history of the Camelot Maidens – the group that escorts students from the quad into the stadium for graduation. Rachel Weaver, the ASB President, introduced the students who would be giving speeches as part of the ceremony – which ranged from Ball’s self-reflection about her past graduation experiences to summarizations of students’ memories while at East Union.
While it’s almost impossible to summarize four year’s worth of experiences into a brief speech, Co-Salutatorian Valeria Amaya chose to highlight the first day that the East Union Class of 2019 started on campus, and the last that they shared together on Friday – highlighting some of the memories that she made during her time as a Lancer, and focusing on the bright future that lies ahead for each of the graduates that walked the stage Friday night.
“Looking back now, it seems as if the time between these two days lasted an instant. But in those four years, we made so many memories that will last a lifetime,” Anaya said. “During these four years you met some of the people sitting around you who became your best friends. Some of you discovered a new talent or passion or developed one you already had.
“As for me, I spent those four years getting to know some of the best people I’ve ever met.”
In Co-Salutatorian Dustin Ngo’s speech, he focused not so much on his friends, but the teachers at East Union that made his time on the campus memorable. Ngo spelled out how it was with the encouragement of his AP literature teacher that he worked up the courage to apply to Ivy League schools, and that encouragement is the reason that he will be attending Cornell in New York in the fall – just one of many special tokens he had for those in the classroom that inspired him to do great things.
“Seriously though, thank you to all the faculty and staff here at East Union for making these past four years productive and memorable,” Ngo said. “To my friends for pushing me to do my best and giving me many memories that I will cherish for good.
“Lastly, a big thank you to my family for giving me a solid foundation on which I can build the resto f my life, and for the support you have given me in everything that I do. To everyone that impacted my time in high school, thank you.”
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.