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Ceremonies Help Close Out 2022-23 EUSD School Year
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The top two graduates for the Class of 2023 at Escalon High School are Salutatorian Gianna Bava, at left, and Valedictorian Kenya Sanchez. They will graduate in a ceremony at Modesto Junior College-East Campus on Friday evening, June 2. Marg Jackson/The Times

Graduation and Promotion ceremonies are on the schedule in Escalon, and the top two graduating seniors from Escalon High School have been announced.

This year’s Valedictorian is Kenya Sanchez; Salutatorian is Gianna Bava.

The Escalon High School graduation ceremony is scheduled for Friday, June 2 at 7 p.m., hosted on the East campus of Modesto Junior College. El Portal Middle School will have its promotion ceremony for eighth graders at MJC East on Thursday night, June 1 at 7 p.m.

Those two ceremonies have been moved to MJC as a result of ongoing renovations at Memorial Stadium/Engel Field on the Escalon High campus.

Wednesday, May 31 features a daytime graduation/promotion for Gateway Academy Charter School with a ceremony in the EHS Performing Arts Center/Auditorium and in a 6 p.m. ceremony in the auditorium, graduates of Vista High School will be celebrated.

As far as this year’s valedictorian and salutatorian for EHS, it was a close race for the top spot.

“I honestly wasn’t expecting it, I thought it was a tie between Gianna and I,” admitted Valedictorian Sanchez upon hearing the news. “Our class is very competitive.”

She said at one point last year, they got an idea of what student were in the top ten and she just went on from there, doing her best but not really anticipating where she would land in the rankings.

“It was kind of surprising,” she said.

Sanchez has been involved with a lot of different clubs on the high school campus, from Aca Dec to Sacred Hearts Club, Art and Photo clubs to CSF. Her favorite class is math.

Freshman year got cut short for the Class of 2023 due to COVID; their sophomore year was spent mostly in distance learning. As juniors, they returned to school but with masks for much of the time while senior year was the first full year, without masks and other COVID precautions, that they have had.

“Personally, I hated online school,” Sanchez said. “It’s not active learning.”

Though she made it through and found a way to thrive, she much prefers the in-person learning and the opportunities that brings.

Looking to the future, she is headed to UC San Diego where she will pursue a degree in molecular and cell biology. She also said navigating high school through the pandemic has made her grateful for a “normal” senior year.

“We got to take it in and appreciate what we missed out on,” she said.

For Bava, she was also excited to be among the top students and said this class learned how to be supportive of each other, an outgrowth of how supportive the entire community has been for them.

“It was an experience, for sure, to never have a real year until senior year,” Bava noted. “It was so crazy but I think it brought us all closer together when we came back because we had been so distant; we had forgotten what each other looked like without a mask. It brought us all closer together this year, we’ve just been able to enjoy it so much more.”

Bava will be attending Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, playing collegiate volleyball and studying business.

She admitted that graduation is something she is both excited for and nervous about.

“It’s bittersweet,” she said. “It’s crazy that it has come so fast but we’ve also been here 13 years … so I think it’s time to go.”