As hundreds of Galt High School graduates approached the stage Thursday, one after another quipped about how they’d known each other for years. Such is life in a small town.
The Class of 2011 — the school’s 99th graduating class — gathered on a breezy evening to receive their diplomas at Warrior Stadium. Many donned Hawaiian-style leis while others hung yellow sashes around their necks depicting club affiliations such as FFA and Associated Student Body leadership.
Senior Class Officer Morgan Woods and Scott Miller, among the first to point out that they attended middle school together, recalled highlights from the last school year that included getting snowed in while on a trip to Washington, D.C, beating cross-town rival Liberty Ranch in the first-ever Dairy Bowl, and the boys soccer team enjoying a 12-game winning streak.
Valedictorian Hailey MacLeod, who also bragged about the Dairy Bowl win, took the standing room-only audience on a trip through her speech.
“Life is a highway, and we’ve been speeding through clubs, sports,” she said.
“We’ve hit that off-ramp. We’ve arrived at our exit: graduation.”
The seniors — whom MacLeod termed great traveling companions alongside teachers and family members — enjoyed a lively rendition of “Seasons of Love” as they swayed and clapped to their peers in the choir. One soloist’s tiny dog tucked neatly in her red gown did not go unnoticed.
While most of the ceremony was filled with joy, a moment of silence was held for Lauren Gile, who would have graduated Thursday. She died last spring from injuries sustained in a car accident in front of the school a year earlier.
There were also a few surprises, including the naming of two outstanding students.
Caleb Boyd was bestowed the Audrey O. Reed Award for exemplifying loyalty, respect and responsibility.
During his four years in high school, Boyd earned nothing less than an A while balancing community service such as building a new school in Guatemala alongside his family during his freshman year, according to special education director Colleen Hurley, who presented the award.
“His chemistry teacher told me he didn’t even need him; (Boyd) just gets it,” she said.
Woods, too, received a surprise award for citizenship.
At age 7, she began raising money and collecting blankets for the Lodi Animal Shelter. Since then, she has traveled to New Orleans to help rebuild a school, and regularly volunteers her time at Shriner’s Hospital to help children with homework.
“She is a credit to her community and her family,” said social science teacher Nicole Stout.
Earlier, fellow social science teacher Becca Dennis referred to MacLeod as the type of student that brightens a teacher’s career. MacLeod, too, was lauded for her community service and the number of hours expended on volunteering that would rival a college student’s resume, Dennis said.
Principal Charles Howell took his opportunity to thank the parents for entrusting him with their students over the past two years. He was hired in fall 2009.
He also reminded the soon-to-be graduates that it’s not as important what they’re going to do now, but what they’re going to be.
“That will take years,” he said, adding that despite the number of graduates this spring, each student has something no one else has — sole custody of his or her life.
Salutatorian Christine Schmidt, known for always giggling and writing rainbow-colored notes, also relayed that sentiment to her peers.
“It’s time to go out into the world and find ourselves,” she said.
She, too, commented about how she attended middle school with many of her fellow seniors — including MacLeod who was the eighth-grade valedictorian as well.
In the end, it was MacLeod who gave her peers a number of tips for their futures, but she personally focused on trusting in God in her next adventure, entering the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado later this month. “Let’s be careful who we allow to be our navigator,” she said.
“Have a great future, or not. The choice is yours.”
Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.