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Seniors Enter EHS Stadium As Cougars, Leave As Grads
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Escalon High seniors join together to sing the Alma Mater during their graduation ceremony on Friday night, June 3 at Engel Field. Marg Jackson/The Times

Temperatures were near perfect and a breeze that blew steadily during the day calmed down some for the evening, as members of the Class of 2022 entered into Engel Field for their graduation Friday night, June 3 at Escalon High School.

It was a festive night, with the class sharing in the joy of having a mostly ‘normal’ senior year, able to attend classes, play sports and have extracurricular activities; all of which were curtailed somewhat during their sophomore and junior years due to COVID.

But this night was about perseverance, accomplishment, and looking ahead at what is to come in the future.

Principal Eric Simoni – who will be leaving EHS for a different school district – provided the welcome and EHS choir students then stepped up to lead the singing of the National Anthem.

Senior class president Bella Ambro also offered an address.

“Never did I think I would be standing here,” she admitted. “I almost had to leave Escalon my junior year but because of my cousins, I was able to stay here and graduate with the students I grew up with … I am beyond grateful for this opportunity.”

Ambro said she learned a lot about perseverance during her time at EHS and, when presented with the chance to speak at graduation, said she wondered whether she should bow out, fearing failure, but stressed there was nothing to gain by not trying.

“You only get one life to live,” Ambro added, “so why not go for it and see where it can take you.”

Campus monitor/supervisor Ricardo Herrera was presented with the Classified Employee of the Year Award and was described as being “the fence around EHS.”

Prior to joining Escalon’s staff, he served in the U.S. Army, doing three overseas tours and also worked as a recruiter in the Central Valley, as well as serving in the National Guard, all combining for a 21-year military career.

“Wow,” Herrera said. “What an honor to be recognized as the Classified Employee of the Year. I want to thank my family for their love and support. I was blessed to find this opportunity … a chance to serve in a more fulfilling way.”

Some significant retirements were also announced, including Alina Swann, counselor, with 21 years; Teresa Stavrianoudakis, counselor, with 16 years; Denise Cherry, nutrition services, with 18 years; and District Superintendent Ron Costa, with 12 years serving the district.

Valedictorian Amanda ‘Mandy’ Murphy was met with cheers and applause for her speech, detailing “the good, the bad and the ugly” of the class journey from kindergarten through graduation.

She reminisced about her first jog-a-thon, how heat radiated up from the blacktop in grade school at recess, how she saw the ‘Dugo For President’ sign the first day of seventh grade – a sign she noted she often saw for student body elections during high school.

She also offered some words of wisdom to a class that had a unique journey during the pandemic-influenced years, urging her classmates to “continue the version of ourselves we want to be … stay strong and independent in our dreams.”

Simoni, stepping back to the podium after Murphy concluded her speech, told the graduates that “It has been a pleasure to be your principal” and he presented the class to Superintendent Costa.

After certifying they had met all the requirements, Costa announced the Class of 2022 as graduates of Escalon High School, with the presentation of diplomas handled by the school board members.

When all students had their diplomas in hand, the graduates moved the tassels and tossed the caps skyward.

Then it was time for hugs, photos and congratulations from family and friends that filled the football field in the stadium, enjoying the moment with the graduates.

Making their way in to the stadium for their Friday night graduation ceremony are seniors Tulsa Carnes, left, and Hannah Luna. Marg Jackson/The Times
Chosen to receive the Classified Employee of the Year Award was Escalon High School campus monitor/supervisor Ricardo Herrera, who offered some thoughts to the graduates and gave his thanks for the honor during his acceptance speech. Marg Jackson/The Times
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Valedictorian Amanda ‘Mandy’ Murphy offered the commencement address, often getting laughs and applause from her fellow students and the audience. Marg Jackson/The Times