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Graduation Celebration
One of the most decorated and award-winning classes to pass through the halls of Escalon High, the Class of 2012 made their mark - and the Cougars also made an impression with the gift of a new graduation stage that will be used by future classes of Cougars.

The Friday night graduation ceremony featured cool temperatures and a nice breeze, as a capacity crowd filled Engel Field at Memorial Stadium for the 92nd Commencement Exercise.

Escalon High School Principal Dave Lattig welcomed the crowd and said this class was special to him, as he entered Escalon High (as assistant principal) when they started as freshmen. Now principal, they marked his first graduating class.

"This night is theirs and they are ready to go," Lattig said.

Voted 'most musical' by his classmates, Philip Beck performed the National Anthem on his trumpet to start the festivities and class president Megan Cowan then took the podium and said the new graduation stage is just one more stage the graduates will see in their lives.

She remembered back to the first day of kindergarten all those years ago.

"Our parents were there with cameras... I, myself, had a 'Hello Kitty' lunch box and I met some pretty cool kids," she said. "In some ways, not much has changed."

While she doesn't have that lunch box anymore, she still considers her fellow classmates 'cool' and many parents were there Friday night, cameras in hand.

She also urged her classmates to forge their own path.

"Cross this stage and embrace the opportunities before you," she said. "Enjoy every step of every stage of the rest of your lives."

Special recognition went to Salutatorian Daniel Alcantor, who received an ovation from his classmates and the crowd when it was announced he has received an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland and will go on from there to serve this country. He also received an award for perfect attendance from kindergarten through 12th grade, never missing a day of school since he started at Farmington Elementary.

Also recognized was retiring teacher Sherri Jensen, who has been an educator for 35 years. The senior class gave her a standing ovation as Lattig presented her with a class ring for her final year at EHS.

Assistant Principal Talmage Allen announced that there were 70 students picking up honors at the Senior Awards Night, including $111,000 in scholarships that night alone. Twenty-seven class members were honor graduates and with athletic and academic university scholarships figured in, the Cougars pulled down in excess of $643,000 in college scholarships.

That, said Allen, is the most in school history.

Valedictorian Taylor Morrow related that, as eighth graders, music played at their graduation from El Portal included the song 'I Hope You Dance' - a song that encourages participating in life to the fullest.

"We have danced," Morrow said.

She added that the high school years flew by and she was excited to be standing where her father had 30 years before. Lance Morrow was valedictorian for his class of 1982 at Escalon High.

"It's totally indescribable, I'm just so proud of all she's accomplished. It's a situation where you wish you were half as good as your kid," he said of his daughter following the ceremony. "I'm in awe of her."

During her speech, Morrow brought classmate Ian Fitzgerald to the podium to help her out, as he read passages from the Dr. Seuss classic 'Oh The Places You'll Go' to illustrate the journey ahead for the Class of 2012.

"Escalon will always be a part of us," Morrow said. "With a church on every corner, four stoplights and the constant smell of cows.

"The past 13 years of schooling have prepared us to take this giant step into the world."

Leading the class in the Alma Mater was Jessica Redding and a full 96 percent of the class is moving on to higher education, whether it is through community colleges, four-year universities, vocational training or the military. Forty-four percent have qualified for UC or CSU schools, the highest percentage the school has achieved.

"I challenge you to have an impact wherever you go," Lattig said. "It's not about what you accomplish; it's about the lives you touch. Have fun, work hard ... make a difference in the lives of others."

Following the traditional tossing of the graduation mortarboards skyward, graduates shared their thoughts.

"Overwhelming," Stephany Garcia said of the feeling. "It's the joy of accomplishment."

"It's amazing," Chaz Welborn added. "Now, moving on and moving farther."

Mason Silva is headed to UC Merced but said he's undecided on a major right now, while Enrique Chavez was all smiles as family members placed a money-laden lei around his neck.

"Oh my gosh, I'm so excited," added Amber Dansby. "My face hurts from smiling so much."

Later on, some 165 of the roughly 215 graduates attended the Sober Grad night celebration, enjoying the cruise ship theme and everything from casino games to ping pong, volleyball to game shows, plus food and beverages, music and more.