Valedictorian Ava Thatcher leading the 2023 graduating class. Photo by Michael Koteles.
Valedictorian Ava Thatcher leading the 2023 graduating class. Photo by Michael Koteles.

This article was written by BenitoLink intern Michael Koteles

Hollister High School’s Class of 2023 held its graduation on June 9 on the school’s multi-purpose field. Approximately 700 seniors crossed the stage. 

The event commenced with Donnobhain Haertel, the senior class vice president, leading the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance. The honor guard from Hollister Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9242 presented the colors.

Ashley Maupin, a senior, delivered a rendition of the National Anthem, accompanied by American Sign Language students. The stage was then set for welcome addresses by Viktor A. Rodriguez and Zitlaly Ceballos, who spoke of unity and diversity in English and Spanish, respectively.

The ceremony continued with performances, including Mixtly Ortiz’s rendition of “My Way” and an address by Laci Lemos, the outgoing student body president, reflecting on her high school journey. 

“My story is simple,” Lemos began. “About six months before starting my freshman year, I was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder which was deemed chronic, or with no cure. I have battled with the relationship between my mind and body all throughout high school and I can confidently say that I have decided to re-label this apparent setback as my comeback. But my comeback is not payback for the moments I felt like I missed. Rather, ‘I was preserved and saved’ [Psalms 116:6] in my lowest moments. I was delivered to the many leadership roles I’ve held in high school where I have found my passion for serving others. But I am only one story in a class of 750 seniors.” 

Shawn Tennenbaum, superintendent of the San Benito High School District, and Adrian Ramirez, principal of Hollister High School, offered congratulations and encouragement to the class.

“I have been so impressed by the graduating class of 2023, as you have successfully navigated your high school careers by demonstrating grace, pride and resiliency every step of the way,” Tannenbaum said.

Poet, former BenitoLink intern and graduating student Katie Moorer then took the stage, reciting her powerful creation, “An Ode to Growing Up,” which captured the essence of the graduates’ personal growth. 

Lyli Soto, the class president, delivered a memorable senior speech expressing gratitude and reflecting on shared experiences. Salutatorian Alejandro Beltran and Valedictorian Ava Thatcher shared insightful perspectives and words of wisdom.

“One of the best lessons that I have learned from my time in high school is the importance of kindness,” said Thatcher. “In today’s world, kindness is something that people always need a little bit more of. Our society is divided on many things, but if people exhibited more kindness toward each other then that divide would lessen.” 

Principal Ramirez certified the Class of 2023, and Board of Trustees President John Corrigan announced their acceptance. 

Finally, the long-awaited moment arrived as the diplomas were presented and James Breen and McKenzie Heckman, the Male and Female Scholar-Athletes of the Year, guided their classmates in the symbolic changing of the tassel.

The ceremony ended with the sounds of “Celebration” filling the air, marking the last day of high school for more than 700 students.

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