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Ceremonies Celebrate Local Graduates
Members of the Class of 2014, Austin Martinez, left, and Frankie Bavaro wave to a friendly face in the crowd as they prepare for their Friday night ceremony. - photo by Marg Jackson/The Times

From Vista High on Wednesday to El Portal on Thursday, and Escalon High School on Friday, graduations were in full force this past week in Escalon.

Ceremonies were staged for all, with plenty of speeches, memories, cheers, applause and looking back at the years gone by.

All of which, students said, seemed to go faster than they anticipated.

At Escalon High School on Friday night, June 6, Valedictorian Maggie Casteel offered a heartfelt, though somewhat irreverent commencement address. She made sure to make the audience wait a bit as she encouraged her classmates to get in a ‘selfie’ she took with her cell phone from the podium before starting her speech. She also at one point asked all the Escalon High graduates in the crowd to stand and be recognized, proof, she said, that “sooner or later we all come back.”

She relived memories of midnight donuts, having a town with just a couple of stoplights and more than one church on every corner, noting that it was a great place to grow up and make lasting friends.

“I hope you find happiness in everything that comes your way,” Casteel told her fellow graduates.

Vista High School on Wednesday night started off the festivities, Escalon High assistant principal and Vista principal Talmage Allen congratulating the graduates on their achievement and sharing a little bit about each one as he read their name for family and friends.

Allen urged the students to remember about ‘The Power of One’ and that taking a stand against injustice can make a difference, one person at a time.

“You have that power of one, you have the ability to stand up against what is wrong in society,” Allen said.

Seventeen graduates sat proudly on the stage in the Escalon High School Performing Arts Center for the ceremony, equally proud family and friends in the large audience there to celebrate with them.

“They overcame problems, poor choices, learning disabilities,” added Allen. “You have proven you can climb that ladder of success.”

Eighth grade graduate Elliott Mello delivered the commencement address for the El Portal ceremony on Thursday night, the Panthers ushered from middle school to high school in a festive event at the Escalon High School stadium. The students also had the chance to enjoy fun games and competitions on Wednesday, their final day as ‘Panthers’ before they moved on to become ‘Cougars’ as incoming freshmen following the Thursday night graduation.

On Friday night, wrapping up the trio of ceremonies, Jacob Boss offered the National Anthem and Senior Class President Taylor Busch welcomed the crowd.

“I want to thank the people that made this possible,” she said, pointing to senior class advisors, teachers and the support from family and friends as being key to their success.

She reminisced about entering high school as insecure freshmen and how they grew and matured through the years.

“Class of 2014, don’t look back because our future is bright,” Busch said. “Be bold, be brave and live every day with passion.”

Graduate Kym Tompson lead the class in the alma mater and Escalon High School Principal Dave Lattig said the Class of 2014 was a distinguished one, with 28 honor graduates, achieving a four-year cumulative GPA of 3.5 or above and meeting all requirements for CSU or UC admission.

He also said the class as a whole impressed him, with their desire to succeed, their work ethic and their willingness to put in the hours required for reaching their goals.

“In the first time since I have been at EHS, the entire senior class made it,” Lattig said. “Incredible, that is a job well done, congratulations.”

Following the ceremony, the majority of the seniors celebrated a night together at the annual Sober Grad Night, a total of 146 students out of the 192 graduates attended the all-night party. They enjoyed food, music, games, prize drawings and more.

Coordinators Tammy Alcantor and Debbie Leal said they were very pleased with the turnout and felt the seniors all enjoyed the safe, sober graduation celebration.