After more than two months to complete school without attending classes on campus, the Colusa High School Class of 2020 walked off the football field with their diplomas in their hands.
The contact-free graduation deviated from the state’s guidance for only drive-in ceremonies, but it still wasn’t everything the seniors had hoped for at the end of their 13-year journey since kindergarten.
“It’s not exactly the fairy tale ending we all imagined when we were contemplating gradation four years ago,” said Colusa High School Salutatorian Chaena Laux. “Back then we thought we had it all planned out, that we just had to make it four years and in the last few months of our senior year we would get prom, our final walk through our childhood schools, a last trip together, a semester of memories with our best friends and favorite teachers, but most importantly, a graduation where all of the people we love would get to watch us walk the stage to complete the first chapter of the rest of our lives.”
Valedictorian Edgar Cruz Vasquez, who earned the highest academic honor at Colusa High School, congratulated his fellow classmates and encouraged them to remember that graduation was an important milestone in their lives, even if the ending of their senior year was unconventional in an era of Murder Hornets and Covid-19.
While only parents of the seniors were allowed to attend the ceremony, separated by a physical distance of six feet in the grandstands, many other cheering fans – some in face masks, stood just outside the fence with balloons and flowers.
In many ways, Colusa’s commencement exercise had all the aspects of a traditional ceremony, including speeches, presentations, recognition of achievement and scholarships. Principal Joshua Mason presented the class and certified their achievements, and all 91 seniors chose to participate in the ceremony.
Despite having to finish their senior year through distance learning, the first eight months of the school year before coronavirus were not forgotten.
“Many of us had dedicated dozens of hours into sports, clubs, volunteering and, most importantly, building a community,” Vasquez said. “Our work has not been wasted. I believe each action we have taken is a step in building our futures. These past four years, I have seen what the world has to offer without ever having to leave our small town.”
The majority of Colusa High School’s graduates (71 percent) plan to start college in the fall; some plan to go immediately into the workforce. One graduate, Jesus Ramirez, is entering the U.S. Navy.
“All 91 graduating seniors have worked hard and have shown an incredible level of resilience,” said Colusa Unified School District President Melisa Yerxa Ortiz. “Look out world, here they come.”