Graduation Caps Year with Tears, Pride, Applause-1

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Reported by Pam Sturdevant,
written by P. Hedlund

Excitement pulsed through the Frazier Mountain High School gym June 13 as the graduating class of 2012 entered in a procession, wearing dark blue robes and tasseled mortarboard hats. A sea of proud parents, loving grandparents, happy brothers and sister, aunts, uncles and proud teachers surged to their feet, beaming with pride to greet the graduates with applause.

Jessica Stegeman gave the salutatorian’s speech. She told of the journey from freshman to senior year, recalling how quickly time slipped away.

“Now it is time to say good bye,” she said.

Class president June Huerta pointed to the advantages of having a small school where everyone knows each other, and appreciates individuality: “Our classrooms are filled with many different personalities. We are all different.”

Teacher Yvette Heasley gave California Scholarship Federation recognition to Jessica Albadawi, Joshua Arreola, Jessica Stegeman and June Huerta.

A Class of 2012 slideshow produced by Joseph Chavez was fun to watch. The crowd was sighing and laughing to see all the seniors’ baby photos followed by photos from this year.

Joshua Arreola gave the valedictorian’s speech. He thanked his friends, family, teachers and God. He thanked his mother for always pushing him to be the best he can be and said, “My dad has taught me to not only to be a hard worker, but to be loving as well.” He spoke of former superintendent Shelly Mason as the most caring person he had ever met and of his hope that he has made her proud. He also shared some insightful life lessons.

Associated Student Body advisor Tim Garcia called the graduates up on stage to receive their diplomas, awarded by El Tejon Unified School District Trustees Anita Anderson and Stephan Kiouses, along with ETUSD Superintendent Katie Kleier.

Each graduate had his or her own cheering section, which echoed throughout the gym. All the teaching staff was there to congratulate the students.

The ceremony ended as the students threw their mortarboard hats high into the air, and then marched from the hall, into a reception area where family and friends swarmed around them with hugs, kisses, gifts, cards, fond wishes and lots of flashing cameras.

[Thanks to reporter Pam Sturdevant for her coverage of this event.]

THREE STORIES: A Speech Dedicated to Mrs. Shelly Mason

By Josh Arreola, Class of 2012 Valedictorian

Josh Arreola began his speech with heartfelt, loving and detailed thanks to his friends, several inspiring teachers, his mother, father and God. Then he began telling of the lessons he wants to share with his classmates, as they all embark on the next chapter of challenges in their lives. This is an excerpt.

I want to share some things with you that I think are keys to success in this life. I’ll separate them into three stories.

The first is a story of overcoming obstacles. On June 11, 1997 it was the NBA Finals Game 5, Bulls vs. Jazz. (Cuz you know I had to include a basketball story in this speech!)

Michael Jordan woke that morning with a bad case of food poisoning and a terrible fever. He was pale and weak, barely able to stand, let alone play 48 minutes in a crucial playoff basketball game. Shaking on the sidelines, his body wrapped in blankets, the trainers said there was no way he would be able to play. But he did. He played 44 minutes and finished the game with 38 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and 1 block.

Jordan had led his team to victory yet again, and he did it while he was barely able to stand under his own weight. After it was over, he collapsed in teammate Scottie Pippen’s arms, knowing that the job was done.

The first lesson of success is to always try your hardest and your best. If you want something, you have to go out there and get it with all of the energy you have in your body. It is the people who can drive themselves further, once the effort gets difficult, who are the ones who will win.

You have to clear your mind of all unnecessary thoughts and focus. The rest is up to you. Michael Jordan said it best: “Obstacles don’t have to stop you. When you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”

Michael never did anything halfheartedly, because he knew that if he did, he could expect halfhearted results.

Yes, you will fail. You’ll fail countless times before succeeding. But failure is always an option. Have the courage to put in the effort, and the results will come.

The second story is about passion. There was this one man who wanted to know the key to success. He went to this success guru and asked him how to be successful. The guru told him, “Meet me at the beach tomorrow morning.”

The man did what the guru told him to do and went to the beach the next morning. The guru was waiting for him at the shoreline. The guru told the man, “Start walking into the water.”

The man did just that, confused, but willing to find the key to success. The guru told him to keep going. The water kept getting higher and higher until it was just below his head. The guru then pushed the man’s head under the water and held him there. Just as the man was about to pass out, the guru let him up for air. He asked the man what one thing it was that he wanted to do most while he was under the water. Of course the man replied, “Breathe!”

The guru smiled and said, “When you want success as much as you want to breathe, then you’ll be successful.”

We all say that we want something or that we’ll be something in the future, and then we do nothing to achieve it. We’ll start off strong with a goal in mind, but never follow through. We’ll keep talking and bragging to our friends that we’re so good at something, but when the time comes to prove that we’re good, we freeze. And then, someone else who actually worked their butt off to achieve the goal we set out to achieve will be pursuing the dream, while we’re left in the dust, thinking about what we could have done differently.

The second lesson: Don’t waste your time doing useless things. Use every second you have to achieve what you want to do. A wise coach once said, “When you are not practicing, remember, somewhere out there, someone else is, and when you meet him, he will win.”

If you really want something, you have to work for it. It’s not going to be easy to get it, but it will be worth the trouble.

Cherish the journey to get to that goal of yours, and don’t make excuses as to why you didn’t achieve it when you know you didn’t put in the effort.

Sure, sometimes you won’t get what you desire, even if you did work for it, but you’ll walk away with the knowledge that you did everything in your power and the best you could do to achieve that dream, and that is the most important part of the journey of this life.

The last story is about second chances. I’ve told this story before in this same gym, but I feel I should tell it again.

On September 3, 2011, I had four grand mal seizures in a row. It changed my life all in a matter of hours. If I had been driving a car or standing somewhere up high, I might not be here right now sharing this speech with you. But I’m here. I got a second chance at this life. And I can’t waste it doing stupid things.

Every day I hear talk about getting wasted, or high, or doing useless things, and I think to myself, “Do I really want to go out and waste my time doing that when I could be doing things that matter?”

The last lesson is live every day as if it were your last.

Steve Jobs actually made a speech talking about this very thing. “When I was 17,” Jobs said, “I read this quote: ‘If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.’ It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself, ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

Staring death in the face taught me the most valuable lesson I can ever share with you. Life is too short. It can end in the blink of an eye, and we wouldn’t even know it.

That’s why I live every day of my life under that notion that nothing or nobody will stop me from achieving my dreams. I want to wake up every morning with a passion. I want to wake up with a smile on my face and be able to say I love what I do. You can dream about it, or you can go out and make it happen.

In life, it’s not about how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. We are all stronger than we think we are. Believe in your abilities. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. You’ve got a dream? Go get it. Period.

It’s been an honor being a part of the El Tejon Unified School District for these nine glorious years. Being a Neenach resident, I could have gone elsewhere. Thank goodness I didn’t.

I learned so much here. I’ve made unforgettable memories with unforgettable friends. I’ve experienced love, heartbreak, joy, fear, everything. And I’m grateful for everything I’ve been through, because it’s made me stronger.

I just hope that tonight I’ve helped you all understand what it means in my eyes to be successful.

All I care about in this life is to make others happy, so that’s what I’ll continue to try to do.

I’m dedicating this speech, to Shelly Mason. For those who don’t know, Mrs. Mason was the most gifted and beloved teacher, principal and superintendent for the El Tejon Unified School District.

For 28 long years she worked here. I know that, somewhere, she’s watching us graduate.

I miss her very much. She was one of the most caring people I’ve met in my lifetime, and I hope I’ve made her proud. And I hope that I’ve made all of you proud as well.

Thank you everybody. Good luck, and God bless each and every one of you.

This is part of the June 22, 2012 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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