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A bittersweet milestone for class of 2012
Sounds of joy, and relief, were heard all around Colusa County Friday night as Colusa, Maxwell, Pierce and Williams high schools sent their graduates off with a cheer.
A lot of hard classes and many hours spent studying paid off for Maxwell High senior Alexz Miller. The valedictorian for the Class of 2012 said she wouldn't have had it any other way.
"Being valedictorian means everything to me," Miller said prior to Friday's commencement exercises on the football field. "I knew it was something I wanted since I was 5."
She also admitted to having a lot of fun along the way, making plenty of friends in school and being active in sports and FFA all four years of high school.
But now, Miller said, it's time she spread her wings.
"Graduation is a little bittersweet," she said. "I'm going to miss my small school, but I'm ready to go to the big city."
The honors graduate and multi-scholarship-winner will be attending San Diego State University in the fall to major in business.
"Sooner or later we all discover that the important moments in life are not the advertised ones, not the birthdays, the graduations, the weddings, not the great goals achieved," Colusa High valedictorian Hailey Prasad said, quoting Susan B. Anthony at the first commencement exercise held as RedHawks.
She and salutatorian Eleisa Ramirez gave their speech together, appropriate for friends who have been side-by-side since the fourth grade, and whose grade-point averages are separated by a singe B Ramirez earned as a freshman.
Both will attend college this fall — Prasad at Fordham University in New York and Ramirez at the University of Portland in Oregon — and both will study biology.
"We tried to stay away from giving cliché advice, but the one thing we would like to leave you with is this: If you can imagine it, you can achieve it; if you can dream it, you can become it," the pair told their classmates.
"Class of 2012, it's not your blood, your pedigree, or your college degree. It's what you do with your life that counts."
Maxwell High salutatorian Aaron Yang said he, too, is ready to start the next chapter in his life, even though saying goodbye to friends and classmates he's known since kindergarten is hard.
Yang plans to attend California State University at Fullerton to major in music and business.
"If I can't make it as a singer, then I want to become a record producer," he said.
Family and friends of Maxwell's graduating class cheered for the close-knit group of 27 seniors, who made it their graduation motto to have dreams and make them come true.
In Williams, valedictorian Juanita Hernandez said graduating at the top of her class was one of the most rewarding experiences she has ever had, although she, too, had to balance school with friends and clubs, including Future Business Leaders of America and MESA.
"It was a lot of late nights, a lot of work and a lot of stress," she said. "But it was all worth it."
Hernandez plans to attend Mills College, a nationally renowned liberal arts women's college in Oakland, to study computer science.
Salutatorian Erik Knight plans to attend the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma to play football for the Loggers.
Williams' commencement exercises on McCarl Field drew hundreds of family, friends and faculty to see the large class of 75 seniors receive their diplomas.
Williams High School's interim principal Kathleen Wheeler encouraged the Class of 2012 to go out make great lives for themselves.
"Be creative, take risks and give back," said Wheeler, when presenting the seniors for graduation.
After throwing her cap into the air with the rest of the senior class, Associated Student Body President Ashlee Povlsen was overcome with emotion.
"Graduation is everything," said Povlsen, with tears billowing up in her eyes. "It proves we accomplished something in life."
Pierce not only offered good wishes and good look to its 81 graduating seniors, but the same to longtime district Superintendent Pat Hamilton, who received the prestigious Golden Bear Award.
Hamilton, a 1965 Pierce High graduate, served 41 years in the district, starting as a teacher's aide and climbing to the peak of her profession.
She oversaw what Class President Cristina Carillo called described as another great graduating class from the Arbuckle school, and what others said were adventurers ready to take on the next challenge, whether that is college, the military or the working world.
Perhaps no better example of the promise of the Pierce Class of 2012 is the fact a trio of classmates — Jessica Hernandez, Alexander Marsh and Trinica Sampson — shared the honor as valedictorians.