Just before 7 a.m. Friday, around 15 audio speakers blasted out recorded messages that could be heard over a block away from the San Benito High School campus. The messages were students thanking their families and friends, an early kick-off to the high school’s 123rd commencement ceremony at Andy Hardin Stadium.
For the 636 graduating seniors, the June 8 send-off signified a goodbye to the campus and their teachers.
“The teachers were all nice,” Sebastian Orozco said. “They were understanding and they helped me pass.”
Orozco moved to Hollister from San Jose in eighth grade and said his transition wasn’t easy, but likes it better and will miss the small things like hanging out with friends.
“I think he’s a super funny teenager,” said Claudia Rodriguez, Orozco’s aunt and legal guardian. “He’s very silly. He has a good attitude about everything. He’s always happy. He’s never really down or sad or nothing like that.”
Orozco had considered enrolling in a trade school, but after he spoke to an Army recruiter in January about the jobs available, he decided to serve in the military.
“I’m very proud of him,” Rodriguez said. “I pushed him really hard throughout all four years.”
Rodriguez said she was heartbroken when he decided to join the Army. At the same time, she was happy because it will give him a better future.
Orozco’s mother, Nora Lopez, said she was very proud of him and that the Army will allow him to grow more and build a stronger character.
Cebastion Hurst, another student who transitioned into a new life in Hollister, said he moved from Arizona about four years ago just before high school.
“Transitioning was a little rough, but I knew that everything was going to be okay,” Hurst said.
Like Orozco, Hurst said he will miss hanging out with people and all the good times he had in class. He plans to pursue a career in electrical work when he attends a trade school in Santa Clara.
“He is so smart, especially with computers and stuff that I can’t really understand. I’m really happy that he is going into something that he’ll actually enjoy,” said Chanessa Wright, Hurst’s mother.
Wright also said Hurst is the first in the family to graduate in a long time. Although it is hard for her to let him go, she hopes he is the trendsetter for his other five siblings; three brothers and two sisters.
“He was my little baby watching ‘Blue’s Clues’ and now he’s in his graduation uniform,” Wright said.
Lara Hartwig had a totally different experience as she watched her youngest daughter, Hailey Hartwig, graduate. She said her two older children going to college set an example for Hailey to follow.
Hailey said her first goal after high school is to stop cheerleading, even though some of her favorite memories are from that experience. She said she was part of the cheerleading squad for four years, and captain for three of them. Hailey will attend Fresno State to pursue a career as an emergency room nurse.
During the commencement ceremony, the school recognized three groups of students: those with four years of perfect attendance, students with 4.0 GPAs or higher, and the top ten academic students, which included Saul Martinez who gave the welcome address in Spanish and later repeated it in English.
Martinez addressed the students and asked them to remember those who helped them reach this goal and to take into account that they will be there to support them in future endeavours.
Other students who reflected on their experience and gave advice to the graduating class were salutatorian Catherine Nordstrom and co-valedictorians Bryce Eggers and Aeja Rosette.
The graduating class of 2018 is the last to stand in the Andy Hardin Stadium, with its fading red paint, before it is replaced by a new sports complex.
San Benito High School initially announced on December 15, 2017 that the graduation would take place in Salinas at RaboBank Stadium because of the construction on the campus fields. But on January 18, the school reversed that decision because a construction delay made it possible to celebrate the ceremony on campus.
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