From the time they set foot on the Escalon High campus as freshmen to entering Memorial Stadium at Engel Field one final time as Cougars on Friday night, June 1, the Class of 2018 has grown and achieved … with more to come.
The graduates in the 98th commencement exercise for Escalon High School gathered under sunny skies with a light breeze to celebrate their accomplishments with family, friends and the community.
The high school band played the traditional Pomp and Circumstance as graduates entered the stadium, with a welcome by high school Principal Eric Simoni and the singing of the National Anthem by graduate Aylianna Partida.
Senior Class President Grace Stime also addressed the graduates and the crowd, reliving moments such as the great feeling when any EHS sports team beats Ripon to the “late night runs to the Donut Shop” while studying for finals.
“There was a feeling of togetherness at our last rally,” Stime added.
Many of the students, she said, also recently had the chance to review a letter they had written to themselves as eighth graders.
“Yikes,” she said, laughing. “How much we have grown these past four years. Never underestimate the power of your choices.”
Nicole Harp, a teacher at Dent Elementary, was presented with the Escalon Unified School District Certified Employee of the Year Award.
A student who spent her years learning in Escalon schools, she chose to come back and teach here as well.
“As I look out, I can see students who walked through my first grade door,” she said of the Class of 2018 graduates. “Keep a little of that six-year-old spirit.”
She also thanked her family for their love and support as she continues in a career that she loves.
The Class of 2018 featured 55 Honor graduates and more than $200,000 in scholarship awards was earned by the class as a whole, including $111,000 in local scholarships presented during an awards night in May, noted Assistant Principal Stephanie Parker.
A trio of Valedictorians – Anna Bonfiglio, Priscilla Nowling and Timothy Megenney – stepped up to the podium together and each delivered a brief speech.
“We’re so lucky to be part of such an exceptional class,” Bonfiglio said. “Success is our future and the future is bright.”
Megenney pointed to the fact that many of the graduates have “known each other since we were in our mother’s wombs” and the class is one that has shown great cohesiveness.
“I never thought there would be a three-way tie,” he said of the top honors, adding that he never thought he would be one of the three, either. “That just makes it all the more special; I am happy and honored to share this with Anna and Priscilla.”
Nowling said the years went by quickly, and she offered recognition for the teachers that have guided them through the years and “cared for us beyond the academic level” as well as coaches that “show passion for their sport and also the athletes.”
Although she admitted it is bittersweet to say goodbye, Nowling encouraged her fellow graduates to make the most of the opportunities ahead.
“Don’t look back and regret the chances you didn’t take,” she advised. “Thank you, Class of 12018 – I wish you the best in life and hope it is nothing short of amazing.”
With the singing of the alma mater, the presentation of the class and certification by District Superintendent Ron Costa that they had met all the graduation requirements, diplomas were presented by school board members and graduation caps went flying.
Family and friends then streamed down to the field from the stands to share the celebration with their graduates.
Later, an estimated 150 of the 193 members of the graduating class attended the Sober Grad Night party, put on in the Performing Arts Center, cafeteria and outside on the tennis courts. With everything from a mechanical bull to a photo booth, dancing to badminton, an inflatable obstacle course to a rock climbing wall, the graduates had plenty to do to stay busy. Food and beverages were also provided and every graduate went home with at least one prize on the night.
Grand prize winners were Nick Warren, Apple Watch; Rogelio Vasquez, laptop; Kristen Gutierrez and Karsyn Beckham, $500 cash each.