The sunshine and clear skies framed the graduates' milestone as they sat in the middle of the stadium's oval, attentive to the speakers.
"So much pressure is placed on academic achievement," Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) Board President Gary Agopian told them. "Your future will be heavily impacted by your educational experience and career success … linked with the backdrop of strength and purpose of our lives."
Quoting NBA Coach Pat Riley, Agopian stated that the graduates should go beyond just being the best; they should leave footprints. "But what kind of footprints?" he asked. "We should leave deep footprints. Make a difference that you will be proud of when you look back."
Photos by Minotte R. Cuenca
Deer Valley seniors turn a corner in their road to adult and productive lives.
AUSD Superintendent Deborah Sims congratulated the graduates for reaching "this significant milestone" in their lives. "Remember the important skills you have learned: decision-making, leadership and problem solving.
"And remember that learning is life-long. Stay the course in the pursuit of excellence. Never let anyone set the bar for you. Don't waste a minute of life in regret, and reach far."
Augmenting the mood of solemnity and celebration were musical performances by DVHS ASL III Students ("My Wish for You") and senior class Members of Divine Voices ("Flying Free").
"Our lives have just begun today," said Salutatorian Manutej Mulaveesala. "We may have finished the elementary school of life. Today, we become the present, the responsible citizens we are meant to be."
Valedictorians Austin Schleder and Justin Spahn also gave short, inspirational speeches. "When you move on, remember to find your niche and do it," said Schleder.
"It feels like we have been here forever," said Spahn. "But from the end of the road, our time here in Deer Valley passed so quickly. Let us honor (our school and family) with our commitment to the future."
Deer Valley Interim Principal Jeff Leber congratulated the 653 graduates and listed where most of them will be heading next: 75 to California State universities, 27 to five University of California schools, five to private universities, 30 to out-of-state colleges, two to foreign countries, 26 to vocational school, and 361 to community colleges.
Leber also said that 38 Deer Valley seniors received a CAL grant and more than 100 secured a community college or state scholarship.