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Class Of 2011
More than 210 strong, members of the Class of 2011 held on to their caps and braved a chilly wind at Engel Field on Friday night, May 27.

Saying goodbye to Escalon High with a flourish, the class presented its gift to the school, a 'Victory Bell' to ring whenever a game or competition is won, learned that more than $290,000 in scholarships was awarded to the class and heard words of encouragement from Valedictorian Kara McKee, who likened their high school years - and the adventure that lies ahead - to an athletic competition.

"The thought of walking through senior hall and seeing my older siblings terrified me," McKee admitted of coming into EHS as a freshman four years ago. "We have bonded over our shared experiences ... we have been through a lot together, winning the big game, walking into the wrong classroom ...we've been through it all."

She also thanked the teachers who have provided the "necessary coaching to succeed" and said many teachers are friends and mentors as well. She also urged her classmates to create their own path as they leave EHS behind.

Escalon High School Principal Jason Maggard said the Class of 2011 was part of a special year at the school, from the state football championship to success in the classroom.

"You have added to the foundation that makes this place special," he said. "If people didn't know about Escalon High School before, they do now. You are what legends are made of."

Salutatorians James Hill and Emily York were recognized with plaques, LilLana Cajias sang the National Anthem, Senior Class President Katie Heflin and Associated Student Body President Emily Duarte made the presentation of the victory bell and gave it the first 'clang.'

The band played for the entrance as the class came in and the crowd cheered wildly, many holding up signs for their graduate.

Singing the Alma Mater was Paul Quiroz and the school district board members presented the diplomas.

With a steady wind all night, the tassel ceremony was more of just a throwing the caps in the air, all of them taking flight.

"It feels surreal," admitted new graduate Jenna Price after the ceremony. "It just hit me that we're done."

Fernando Lopez said the ceremony was "pretty exciting" and he said his high school years were memorable.

"I'm going to miss my friends and overall it was four amazing years that I'll celebrate the rest of my life."

For Taylor Denczek, senior year was just a whirlwind.

"There's no words to describe it," he said. "It went by so quick."

He will head to MJC to study fire science.

Also in the crowd, enjoying hugs, high fives and plenty of photo opportunities, was Dylan Cathcart.

"It's unbelievable," he said of capping his high school career. "It's almost up there with winning the state (football) championship. What a senior year, I couldn't ask for more."

Nearly all of the graduates - an estimated 185 - took part in the Sober Grad night festivities offered from midnight to 5 a.m., sharing their final night together as Cougars.

Coordinator Debbie Veenstra said she was extremely pleased with the turnout of students, the volunteer helpers and the variety of activities offered for the graduates, in addition to prizes.

"I think everyone had a great time," she said.