Graduations throughout county celebrate student achievement 

Seniors from all the high schools in Colusa County received their diplomas on May 31, making them ready to take the next big step toward their futures. 

Most of the graduates plan to enter college in the fall, although some plan to join the military or go directly into the workforce. 

Colusa High School 

A total of 74 seniors marched across the football field in white and burgundy gowns. Their mortarboards, a symbol of scholars dating back to the 15th century, sat atop the minds of those who had successfully completed their educational requirements. 

Graduates, their families, and many of the staff were present to close out the chapter of their lives spent as youth as they enter into the responsibilities of adulthood. 

“We know the future is bright for our young adults as they transition to their next phase of life,” said Rebecca Changus, Colusa High School principal.  

Unlike the other graduation ceremonies in the county, Colusa’s was distinguished with the Veterans of Foreign Wars marching in as flag bearers. Yet, there was an intimate element as all those present have shared together the triumphs and defeats throughout the years. 

Class of 2019 Valedictorian Rosa Garibay Montez likened the high school experience to running a marathon but explained that their combined experiences running the race had “contributed to the bond that unites all of us.”

Co-Salutatorians Chloe Ferraiuolo and Erik Wrysinski expressed sincere gratitude and shared memories from their time at their alma mater.

Graduating with the Class of 2019 also was Bayne, a labrador retriever trained as a senior project by Tatum Carrere for Veterans K9 Connections, who will now go to his new home.

Also during the ceremony, the highest award given by the Colusa Unified School District Board of Trustees, the “Golden Apple,” was presented to Dave and Robin Myers for their exhaustive list of contributions made to the school and students. 

Williams High School 

The Class of 2019 was smaller than in previous years with just 58 students, but a higher number of Williams High School graduating seniors than ever before plan to continue their education at a four-year university.  

Superintendent Edgar Lampkin and Principal Nicholas Richter each praised the graduating class, noting that Williams High School students and the school district have a lengthy list of accomplishments.

“We had 38 percent of our students in the 2019 class meeting A-G graduation requirements and they will be off to a college or university,” Lampkin said. “We also have the highest number of students enrolled in dual enrollment courses, meaning the courses they are taking is giving them credit for college and high school.” 

Lampkin said what also makes the Williams High School Class of 2019 unique is that the global workforce will be looking for graduates with 21st century skills – something these seniors possess.  

“They are dependable; they think on their feet; and they support each other like a winning team,” he said. “They have character that stands out, and that makes them unique.” 

Valedictorian Lizbeth Aceves Salazar gave credit to educators, family members, and mentors for helping the Class of 2019 achieve their educational goals, but kept her address lighthearted in congratulating her fellow classmates. 

“I hope you are all proud of yourselves for being here today – I know I am,” Aceves Salazar said. “After four years of being together, we made valuable friendships that are going to last a lifetime.” 

Katelynn Odessa Hernandez was the Williams High School salutatorian. 

Many Williams’s seniors received scholarships during commencement exercises to help them with their educational goals. Top recipients included Noheli Lilivette Rivera-Mendez, whose scholarships included those from Williams Kiwanis, Brian Shellnut Memorial, Fouch & Son Pharmacy, Taco Bell of Williams, and Boy Lopez Memorial. 

Aceves Salazar also earned several scholarships, including $1,000 from Citizens for a Better Williams. Prabhpreet Singh Kahlon, who plans to enter the medical field, earned the first given Tom Griffith Memorial. Cindy Torres earned the Broken Box scholarship, James Granzella Memorial, and Knights of Columbus scholarship. 

Female athlete Carmen Contreres and male athlete Hunter Povlsen earned the Brown and Gold scholarship awards. 

Pierce High School 

Representing the largest graduating class in Colusa County, 99 Pierce High School students graduated Friday evening on the north lawn of the school. 

As students walked to “Pomp and Circumstance” they each carried and placed a white rose for their fellow classmate, Keiri Benitez Hernandez, who died in a car accident in November of 2018. Hernandez would have been the 100th student to graduate with the Class of 2019.

Hernandez, however, wasn’t the only Pierce student remembered. 

Salutatorian Katherine Corona not only thanked her family for pushing her to her limits, but thanked the Davis Police Department for providing her support and caring about her wellbeing following the death of her sister, Officer Natalie Corona. 

“We are a family,” she said. 

Corona also reminisced about elementary school, shared her memories of 50-cent popsicles, and reflected on the ultimate separation of friends that occurs with all graduations. 

“When we leave here today, we get to choose our own path,” said Corona.

Co-valedictorians Darleny Corona and Emma Doherty gave separate addresses. 

Darleny Corona reminded her class that their families had made a lot of sacrifices to help them get to where they are today, and that it is now their turn to continue a path to success. 

“The one thing that we all have in common is the small town that we are fortunate to call home,” Darleny Corona said. “I hope we all make the commitment to remember where we came from and one day return home to help our community grow and share our experiences with the future generations of Pierce Bears. I am so excited for our future.”

Corona called for a brief moment of silence for all those who couldn’t be at graduation.

“From those who couldn’t be here, to those who have left us too soon, they all played a big part in our achievements today,” she said.

Doherty thanked her family, her coaches, her Ag advisors, and school administrators as she recapped her achievements.

“If anyone knows my family, knows my family or myself can be overcommitted,” Doherty said. 

She then recapped her achievements as the California Girls State representative, a Junior Fair Board member, 4-H president and ambassador, and a varsity volleyball champion. 

“Though our class faced some truly tragic moments, we had a great year,” Doherty said. “That’s the one great thing about Pierce High School – we help each other in every way we can. Once you enter that hallway you are a part of a huge family.”

Doherty recalled her family’s history through the Pierce High School hallways, including her great-grandmother, who graduated in 1912. 

During commencement exercises, Pierce Unified School District Trustee George Green presented Merced and Lupe Corona the “Golden Bear Award”, the most prestigious and highest award to be given by the district.

“Merced and Lupe were both students of the Pierce Unified School District,” said Green. “They participated in various school activities, and continue to contribute their time to various fundraisers and community events. And through the face of tragedy, they continue to have the courage, grace, and compassion for our community.” 

Pierce Unified Trustees Nadine High and Amy Charter presented the graduating class of 2019 with their diplomas. 

Several scholarships were awarded to Pierce graduates that evening, including the Hans Lauwerijssen Memorial to Daniel Meza; the Tom Friel Memorial to Callie Muniz; and the Arbuckle FFA Scholarship to Emiliano Rodrigues. 

The Davis Odd Fellows presented their first Officer Natalie Corona Memorial Scholarship to Ivette Quezada. 

Maxwell High School

Maxwell High School seniors took to the stage Friday evening for the Class of 2019 graduation ceremony. 

Master of ceremonies was Timothy Kromis. Natalie Wilson served as the Mistress of Ceremonies. 

Theresa Mitchum and Ramon Ramirez delivered the welcoming address. 

Darleen Grewal, the Class of 2019 valedictorian quoted Neil Gaiman and Arthur Ashe, who said graduation was not the end but a beginning.

“Start where you are,” Grewal told her classmates. “Use what you have. Do what you can. No matter what you do or where you go, do your best and don’t give up on your dreams. Face any challenge that comes your way. 

Grewal told her classmates that as they step into the real world – outside of Maxwell – they should remember to do something that they liked and that they are good at. “Be who you want to be and not what someone else wants you to be,” she said. “Keep your head high and heart open for anything that comes your way. The challenges that you will face are going to turn into accomplishments. We may not have the power to inspire the world for success but we have the power to inspire those around us.” 

Cody Pearson was the 2019 salutatorian. 

Over 30 scholarships were awarded to students during the commencement exercises. 

Reagan Spesert and Carmen Valencia gave a touching farewell address, before Ulises Rolon led the group in moving their tassels.  

Superintendent and Principal Zach Thurman presented the class for graduation and Maxwell Unified School District Trustees Dianna Azevedo and Tom Charter presented diplomas.  

The graduated class of 2019 left the stage one by one as “My Wish” by Rascal Flats played throughout the recessional.

Princeton High School 

A graduating class of 16 seniors, a large class for Princeton High School, received their diplomas during graduation on Friday. 

The Class of 2019 entered the gymnasium filled with family and friends to the processional “Pomp and Circumstance.” 

Ella Kesler and Fiorella Perez Plascencia served over the commencement exercise as Master and Mistress of Ceremonies. 

Angelina Celest Hernandez opened with a poem. 

Salutatorian Brandon Maybell and Valedictorian Jacobo Lopez delivered their addresses, reflecting on the class’ time together in school and their dreams for the future. 

Most of the students had been together since kindergarten, which was proudly replayed through photographs taken over the years. The class slideshow is the hallmark of commencement exercises at Princeton High School, officials said. 

Participating in the graduation ceremony were seniors Michell Cervantes and Isabel Bugarin, who presented the class gift, and Josue Sullivan and Nickolas Ramirez, who presented the advisors gift. Alysha Robledo delivered a thank you on behalf of the Class of 2019. 

Superintendent and Principal Korey Williams certified the class, and Princeton Joint Unified School Trustee Victoria Reamer presented the diplomas. 

In addition to individual scholarships presented to graduates of the five high schools in Colusa County by numerous people and organizations, the Colusa County Scholarship Foundation handed out over $84,000 in scholarships in 2019. 

The Colusa County Scholarship Foundation is a collaborative of local individuals and businesses that want to help local graduates succeed through scholarship funding. ■