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Panthers Moving On To Become High School Cougars
Offering some remarks to the crowd was El Portal graduate and Student Body President Jacob Dugo.Times Photos By Marg Jackson - photo by Marg Jackson/The Times

There were plenty of accolades to go around for the members of the eighth grade class at El Portal Middle School.

Arriving at Engel Field on the Escalon High School campus on Thursday night for their promotion ceremony, they entered as Panthers and emerged as Cougars, ready to move on to high school.

The ceremony on Thursday, May 31 featured some graduation speakers, acknowledgement of student achievements and presentation of the Classified Employee of the Year award.

Offering the welcoming remarks were Student Body President Jacob Dugo and student Juandiego Sanchez Hinojosa, with Student Body Vice President Soleil Gouzenne leading the flag salute.

Student Goretti Rodriguez was noted for perfect attendance all three years at El Portal, with no tardies and no days absent.

Dugo also took the podium as the student speaker for the promotion ceremony.

“El Portal has provided us with so many skills for the future, especially how to work hard,” he said. “I’m excited for us to become Escalon Cougars this fall.”

He wrapped up his remarks with a poem he wrote about the middle school years of the class and reminded his fellow graduates that they are “so blessed to live in this small town that has so much support to give.”

During the evening, multiple students were recognized for a variety of achievements, from teacher recognition to Presidential physical fitness, citizenship, growth and academic excellence.

John Lial was presented with an award for being chosen Classified Employee of the Year. He spent nine years as a custodian/bus driver for the school district and, since 2012, has served as the bus dispatcher.

“It’s such an honor to be here receiving this award,” Lial said. “It’s a wonderful feeling to be acknowledged by my peers. It was instilled in me at a young age to work hard and do it with a smile.”

Principal Mark Vos took the podium to congratulate the eighth graders moving on and had the students provide a round of applause for their teachers that have helped them succeed in middle school. He also urged the class to “do more” as they move on to high school.

“Join a community service club, resist the temptation to gossip or bully,” Vos said. “High school will provide you with increased opportunities … look for and take advantage of the opportunities to do more.”

Diplomas were presented to the eighth grade graduates by members of the school board, with District Superintendent Ron Costa and Assistant Superintendent Joel Johannsen also in attendance.