A dozen graduates were recognized at the Vista High School ceremony on Wednesday night in the EHS Performing Arts Center, honored for their accomplishments and celebrating their achievement with family and friends.
Nine of the 12 were in attendance at the ceremony and following the welcome by Principal Dave Lattig and the Pledge of Allegiance, student speaker Ethan Hilliard took to the podium.
Diagnosed with chronic depression and PTSD at age 13, the student said he tried to attend ‘regular’ high school but found that it was not a conducive environment for him. He attended both Ripon and Escalon high schools and also was homeschooled for a time before arriving at Vista as a junior.
“I barely scraped by,” he said of that junior year.
But between his junior and senior years, Hilliard said he made a major decision.
“I’m done being useless, I’m done being the victim,” he told the crowd of his epiphany. “I decided to put energy into my senior year.”
Sharing some of his own mental health struggles, he said what he has found is that many people won’t accept the help that is out there.
Until he was willing to be a participant in his own life and “accept the help of others” Hilliard said he wasn’t able to move forward. Now, with diploma in hand, he plans to do just that.
Assistant Principal Stephanie Parker also told the students to follow their own path and said she didn’t take a traditional route to her administrative position – entering the Army after drifting in a couple of jobs.
What she found out in the Army, she said, was that she “hated people telling me what to do” and that she was competitive. She also discovered that she wanted to motivate students like herself – those that find navigating high school tough. She said while some will doubt them, the students need to believe in themselves.
“Don’t let people tell you that you’re not smart enough,” she said.
Diplomas were presented by the board of trustees members, with each graduate introduced and their future game plan outlined, including potential college and career choices.