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By Jeff Pack
Staff Writer 

Fallbrook seniors graduate virtually first


Last updated 6/19/2020 at 1:52am

After months of discussions and wrangling, the seniors at Fallbrook Union High School, Ivy High, and Oasis High graduated in separate virtual productions that were broadcast online June 2-4.

Late last week, students were able to pick up their diplomas in a drive-through ceremony.

During Fallbrook High's virtual commencement ceremony, Valedictorian Emiliano Corona gave his speech, first clearing up that, "No, the virus isn't named after me."

"I'm going to be honest everybody, this sucks," Corona said. "I know we used to joke about having 20/20 vision, but I'm pretty sure none of us would have seen this coming. And I know this isn't the graduation that we had originally planned. We were supposed to be sitting on the football field, surrounded by friends and family, getting ready to walk across that stage into a new phase of our lives.

"While this might not be the ideal scenario, we shouldn't let what we don't have, overshadow what we do have. What we do have are the amazing memories we have made over the past four years.

"Looking back, we sure have been through a lot. One fire, three lockdowns, multiple changes in administration, the rise and fall of a house system and, most importantly, a global pandemic.

"But we've also gone through some great things – pep rallies, assemblies, a solar eclipse – and most importantly, the new bathrooms underneath the clock tower, even if they took forever to finish."

Corona thanked the administration, teachers, and family for their support over the years.

"To the students watching at home, I encourage you to do the same," he said. "Thank those who have shaped you, to have impacted you, and to those who have made you into the person that you are today.

"Do something to show that you are truly grateful for their support."

Salutatorian Audrey Gillcrist also gave a speech and began by thanking her family, teachers and members of the administration who guided her along the way.

"I had rewritten, edited and memorized a speech about the boundless possibilities that are going to come our way because we are special, unique and have so much potential," she said. "I was bored just reading that speech. So, I scrapped it. As your peer, I refuse to perpetuate the false message that we will all be swimming in wealth, success and happiness in the years to come. The harsh truth is that outside of the chain-link fences of Fallbrook High School, not everyone gets a trophy."

Gillcrist also laid out 11 suggestions to her fellow classmates to ensure a realistic and bright future, along with words of encouragement.

"At the end of the day, no one really cares about the awards you've won," she said. "No one remembers who you knew and what you did, but they will remember how you made them feel. The only thing I can guarantee you is that it will be composed of a series of events and our individual human experience will be defined by how we respond to them. I cannot and will not promise fantasies of wealth, success and happiness in the years to come. However, as the captains of our fates, we can choose lives rich in kindness, define our own version of success and choose to be joyful, no matter the circumstances."

School Principal Dr. Narciso Iglesias gave an impassioned speech recalling the school year that was.

"Yes, it was different, we sat together, I sat with you," he said. "We joined each other. We sat at athletics. We sat at activities and we sat during academic events. Senior scholars, at our community's student of the month events, you left me speechless. At times you left me breathless with all your accomplishments, all your academics, but more importantly, your perseverance in life. Man, you had me sometimes, most of the time I was in tears.

"I once told our parents, we are family and families are not perfect. God knows my family is not perfect, but I love them dearly. And I love you. And I know it's been tough. Believe me. Out of this crisis, this emergency, this pandemic, have come lessons. And I hope that you have learned these two pieces of what I've learned. And I give you these four words: compassion, care, communication, critical thinking. This was my charge to you to have compassion for others. Take care of yourself, the ones that love you and the ones you love back."

Fallbrook Union High School District Superintendent Dr. Ilsa Garza-Gonzalez also addressed the graduating seniors, referring to the age group, Generation Z, a group that these students are a part of.

"The chosen ones, as Tom Hanks has referred to you, carrying with you the sacrifice of the traditionalist, the ambition, love of family, optimism and creativity that you inherited from those that came before," she said. "You are the science generation and everything you look at, you look at through the lens of science, yet you're a fun group. You are fiercely humanitarian and globalist. You do not believe in traditional barriers and borders. You see beyond these, you were born as our country was experiencing one of its greatest tragedies, 9/11, and your entrance into adult life is marked by a global pandemic.

"These events, as well as the generations that came before you will undoubtedly mark you. You cannot control that. What you do have full control over is how they mark you, let it be for the better. Choose to be kind, choose to be invincible, choose to be inclusive, and choose to be resilient. Choose hope in years to come.

"We will know more about the gifts that you, Generation Z, and the class of 2020 have for us. I, for one, cannot wait. Congratulations."

A slide show of all the graduating seniors was next, followed by a slideshow of candid photos submitted by seniors.

Oasis and Ivy High schools' principal Michael Gray directed the virtual commencement ceremonies for both schools, sharing a story of perseverance and determination. He shared a quote, "Instruction ends in the classroom, but education only ends with life."

"I want to congratulate each and every one of you for all your hard work and also for not giving up, especially during this unique and unprecedented time of your lives," Gray told the graduates. "You are here today because you were determined to earn a place among those that have graduated from high school. I also want to praise your families for all their support, which they have given you throughout your lives. And the fact that they are here today is proof that they will continue to support you during the hard times."

Dr. Garza-Gonzalez also addressed the graduating Oasis and Ivy High seniors.

Salutatorian Jayleen Castillo thanked the efforts of teachers, staff, tutors, families and more that helped graduates achieve their goal of finishing high school.

"Although this is not the graduation we all expected," she said. "It is definitely a unique one that will go down in history. The fact that not even a global pandemic could keep us from completing our work in graduating is something we should all be very proud of.

"I was honestly thinking of ways I can get out of giving a speech, but as they told me the different things I could mention in the speech, they said I could include a quote. This really made me think back to the quote board we had in my teacher, Mr. Kent's room, that we each had to put an encouraging quote on. I put "all support takes place outside of the comfort zone." This girl definitely helped me feel more confident to follow through with giving this speech. And it's one that we would do well to remember as we step into our adult lives."

Valedictorian Trevor Skiffington was next.

"Though we're not gathered in person celebrating in one place, we're still celebrating as one," he said. "We still are here and we still are graduating. This speaks to your resilience in the face of whatever outcomes there may be in this world that speaks to your commitment to a goal, a goal of completing this first stage of your life and commencing on to the next. You have spent four years staying up late, waking up early and pulling your hair out so that you could see your graduation and gladly accept your diplomas. Why would you give up at that last stretch? Why say, 'well, I did three and a half years and that's good enough?' You wouldn't say that you did not say that your response was, 'well, it's only one more semester. I can do this.'

"And you did, because life will do this. Life will rearrange our plans. It will bring us up and it will put us down. We'll change the way we see the world. But whether it changes you depends on if you let it, if you will hide and stay down when you were beaten, or if adversity will produce strength, life only finds greater difficulties as it passes on, it only produces bigger struggles, stresses are greater, and it seems the burden is much heavier. So, cherish these moments and enjoy your memories of high school."

The video also honored retiring counselor Hector Barazza, who leaves education after 40 years.

In Ivy High's virtual graduation ceremony, Barazza was also honored, along with retiring teacher Kim Gage.

Gray led the commencement and introduced Valedictorian Ben Otte, who filmed his speech from Texas, where he's been stuck since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

"All the teachers at Ivy are dedicated to helping you and dedicated to what you want to do in your future and get you to that goal," he said. "I was doing APEX. I was doing driver's ed after school. I was doing driver's ed while at home, I was doing after school classes, online classes. And as much as online classes suck to me, we have to get them over with, and if you want to get to where you want to be in life ... you got to climb the mountain to get to the top. You can't just get to the top.

"Ivy High School was a big step for me, it really helped me. It got my head right. I started to get the best grades I've ever gotten ... I was getting really good grades. And then I started to feel better. The teachers motivated me and the people that I was going to school with were motivating me.

"Students at Fallbrook High School or any other school think that Ivy is for the bad people, because it's a continuation high school, but I don't put it like that. A diploma, it means a lot, no matter where it's from, because you're working hard for it. I worked really hard for it."

Jeff Pack can be reached by email at [email protected]


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