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New Adventures Await Class Of 2013
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Heading back to his seat after accepting his diploma, Escalon High School graduate Zach Mando is all smiles during the Friday night commencement ceremony. Looking on from the stage, at right, is school board president John Largent. Marg Jackson/The Times

Many achievements and memories behind them, many more to come.

It was a celebratory evening on Friday, May 31, with the Class of 2013 celebrating their accomplishments and officially becoming high school graduates.

Cougars for the past four years, the Escalon High students will now move on, many to college, some to the military, others to jobs or technical and vocational training.

Sunny skies greeted the standing room only crowd at Engel Field in Memorial Stadium for the festivities, the 93rd commencement exercise in the history of Escalon High.

After teachers filed in, the students followed suit, and the graduates remained standing even after the applause had died down.

“Family and friends, and the entire Escalon community, the Class of 2013 is standing for you,” EHS Principal Dave Lattig said, noting that the students wanted to thank the community for its support.

Associated Student Body President Taylor Carnes sang the National Anthem, then she and classmate, Senior Class President Illiana Cajias, shared the microphone as they wished the class well and took a look back at their four years in high school.

“We’ve wanted to do this since our freshman year,” Carnes said of she and Cajias standing together at the podium for graduation. “How excited and honored we are.”

Cajias said through the years, they have “eaten questionable sandwiches” in the cafeteria, enjoyed the various quirks of some teachers and learned that “the Class of 2013 makes incredible Homecoming floats.”

Carnes said they made the most of their time, joining clubs, playing sports, making friends and memories.

“We are fully prepared to move on,” she said.

School board president John Largent presented the Classified Employee of the Year Award to Sheila Garside.

“Her job title is paraprofessional but in reality she is a mom, a counselor, a mediator,” Largent said, adding that there “aren’t enough words to describe” all that Garside means and brings to EHS.

“It has been an honor and a blessing in my life to work with the children of the Escalon community and I feel privileged to receive this award,” said an overwhelmed Garside, who received a standing ovation.

Also given special recognition was retiring teacher Mike Backovich, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor several months ago and has made incredible strides but opted to retire after 37 years. He received a special ring as a gift for his retirement.

Graduates were recognized with honors, including 69 seniors taking home 76 different awards and scholarships totaling over $190,000. Salutatorian Casey Pettitt was recognized on stage and then Valedictorian Victor Alvarado offered his speech, citing a mix of “joy and excitement, sadness and fear” among the emotions he was feeling.

Even though the class will scatter to new adventures, he urged them to make sure they hold on to the friendships they have made.

“Find the beauty in everything,” he told his fellow graduates. “It’s the end of high school, but also the beginning of a new adventure.”

Lattig said the class distinguished itself by setting the academic bar high, with 31 earning a 4.0 and 65 coming in at 3.5 GPA.

The Class of 2013 also graduated with an average GPA of 3.05.

“You have set the bar, you have led by example, thank you for your hard work,” Lattig said.

Following the presentation of diplomas and the tossing of caps skyward, students celebrated, sharing hugs and high fives with classmates, family, friends and the community.

Jazmin Udavi was “excited, happy, overwhelmed” as she shared an embrace with boyfriend David Naranjo. Her plans are to go to MJC to start, planning a career in criminal justice and hopefully, the FBI.

“Awesome,” Nancy Humphrey added of the feeling of being a high school graduate. She will also look into criminal investigation as a career and plans to enlist in the U.S. Army.

Jonathan Bailey plans to major in history, minor in psychology, and was surrounded by well-wishers on Friday night. Ivan Macias, weighted down with balloons, said the time went by fast.

“Pretty happy,” he said of the feeling, adding that his best memory of EHS will be the friends he has made.

After graduation, an estimated 175 members of the class enjoyed the Sober Grad Night party, checking in between 10:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. and then settling in for an overnight celebration featuring table games, dancing, boxer bingo, jousting, mechanical bull riding, laser tag, music, food, fun and more.