For many, it was a long and difficult road. But it was one they successfully navigated, as members of the Class of 2021 at Vista High School received their diplomas on Wednesday evening, June 2.
The ceremony for the Vista High Knights was hosted in the Performing Arts Center on the Escalon High School campus, adjacent to Vista. Principal Gustavo Arzac welcomed the crowd after the graduates walked in to the processional in their Vista blue caps and gowns.
“It is with great pleasure that I welcome family and friends to this celebration and fortunately, it is in person,” Arzac said.
Last year there was no in person commencement as schools were on distance learning due to COVID-19.
This was Arzac’s first opportunity to present a class for graduation and he told those in the audience that “it is a very special evening for you and your graduate.”
He said the fact that the seniors made it to this milestone is “testimony to the love and support” given to them by family. He also thanked the school board for providing another opportunity for the students to succeed, out of the traditional high school path, but having to meet all the same requirements for graduation.
“We are excited for our students,” he said.
Arzac also noted the “time and energy” that the Vista staff provided to students during the year, helping them successfully complete the requirements to be on stage.
Elija Castro, Salvador Diaz, Jaden Fontes, Araceli Hernandez, Morgan Prichard and Carissa Smith were on stage; graduate Wyatt Dean has already moved out of the area and started a business. Honorary graduate, Angel Lopez, passed away unexpectedly earlier in the school year and his aunt was presented with an honorary diploma on his behalf.
Student speaker Carissa Smith, who graduated in February but returned for the formal ceremony, offered her congratulations to fellow Knights.
“We put in the hard work to get us to where we are today,” she said.
Smith also noted that she changed schools many times throughout the years and, at Vista, she found an opportunity to not only complete her education but also live her life and was greeted by “friendly faces” every time she stepped foot on campus. She offered thanks to her mother and sister, in particular, for keeping her grounded and focused on the goal of graduation.
Smith added that it was time for the students to “move on” with their lives and she thanked the Escalon Unified School District for giving them a head start.
“I stand in amazement at how far we’ve come,” Smith said. “The future is truly in our hands … let’s make the most of it.”
Principal Arzac announced the selection of Angel Lopez as the Student of the Year by Vista staff and asked the crowd to observe a moment of silence in his memory.
He then offered a few thoughts regarding the graduates prior to the presentation of diplomas by members of the school board.
“Resilience,” Arzac said of the Knights. “While the world as we knew it stopped, these students kept going. They stayed motivated; they worked hard, one credit at a time.”
He spoke of optimism, faith and commitment as tools that can see the students through any challenges they may face.
“Graduates, you go out there and get your goals,” Arzac told them. “Congratulations to the Class of 2021.”