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Jokes, hugs cap Lodi Academy graduation

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Posted: Monday, May 28, 2007 10:00 pm

Lodi Academy's 2007 senior class gathered for the last time Sunday morning at the school's gym to end a three-day graduation celebration.

Seniors in black and white robes and colorful leis took measured steps down the aisle as parents popped out of the crowd of nearly 150 people like paparazzi, looking to snap the perfect photo.

The 29 seniors from Lodi Academy, a Seventh-day Adventist school, took their places on stage, which was decorated with four black, white and blue balloon columns, each topped with a silver Mylar balloon number spelling out "2007."

The seniors' beaming smiles soon turned to tears as class member Maxwell Vogel, 19, sang "Follow Love." Vogel paused halfway through the song, turning his back to the audience and singing the heartfelt goodbye directly to his classmates.

Vogel then introduced physical education teacher and commencement speaker Bill Davis to the stage by strumming his guitar and wailing, "I love my coach." Several seniors chimed in for some impromptu harmonization.

Davis seasoned his speech, a tour of student life from kindergarten up, with an array of inside jokes.

He noted that when seniors hit age 18 they often tell their parents, "I'm 18. I can do what I want."

"It's amazing," Davis quipped. "These people can do whatever they want, but at the same time they do nothing."

Putting jokes aside, Davis used both quotes from the Bible and legendary basketball coach John Wooden to urge his students not to put their life on autopilot and to blaze their own trails instead of following established ones.


Lodi Academy graduates exit their graduation ceremony on Sunday morning. (Whitney Ramirez/News-Sentinel)

Melissa Allen
Bank of America Certificate - English

Romulo Aqui
San Joaquin Delta College $500 Scholarship

Katie Beasley
Bank of America Certificate - Science
Daughters of the America Revolution Good Citizen
Friedberger Education Fund $3,077 Scholarship

Melissa Borth
Bank of America Certificate - Religious Studies
Friedberger Education Fund $3,077 Scholarship
John Philip Souza Award
Senior Athlete Award
The Record All County Distinguished Student Award

Daniel Cheng
Bank of America Certificate - Science

Patrick Cheng
Bank of America Certificate - Mathematics

Joleen Emory
Bank of America Certificate - English

Joshua Koot
Senior Athlete Award

Chanel Lanier
Bank of America Certificate - Computer Studies

Allen Moreno
Air Force Math and Science Award
Bank of America Certificate - Mathematics

Brittanie Ottinger
Bank of America Certificate - Business
University of Minnesota - $6,000

Samantha Owens
Caring Heart Award
John Philip Souza Award

Nathan Phelps
Bank of America Plaque - Science and Mathematics
California Masonic Foundation Scholarship - $10,000
National School Choral Award
The Record All County Student Pinnacle Award

Kristen Schnabel
Cal Grant

Melissa Schnabel
Cal Grant

Max Vogel
National School Choral Award

Brittany Zimmerman
Bank of America Plaque - Science and Mathematics
University of Tulsa - $40,000


Graduate Joleen Emory, left, hugs a crying Carly Hayhurst on Sunday. Both attended Lodi Academy for four years. (Whitney Ramirez/News-Sentinel)

Brittany Akins
Melissa Allen
Romulo Aqui
Katie Beasley
Melissa Borth
Daniel Cheng
Patrick Cheng
Joleen Emory
Trevor Gomes
Carly Hayhurst
Joshua Koot
Chanel Lanier
Michael Marroquin
Oscar Mata
Allen Moreno
Eden Morneau
Benji Noirjean
Brittanie Ottinger
Samantha Owens
Nathan Phelps
Tim Porter
Kristen Schnabel
Melissa Schnabel
Zac Smith
Max Vogel
Ian Walker
Katie Wright
Brittany Zimmerman

"You are each a representative of God. Go and serve his kingdom well," Davis said.

After presenting several dozen awards, faculty members handed out diplomas.

Upon receiving their diploma many students skipped formal handshakes with their educators in favor of celebratory hugs.

Pods of family and friends throughout the crowd erupted in whoops and whistles at the sound of their student's name.

After a short prayer by senior Joshua Koot, principal Doug Brown introduced the class of 2007 to the applause of the crowd and an explosion of streamers.

The graduates immediately attacked each other and members of junior class with silly string, a tradition at Lodi Academy commencements, and filed out of the gym under a tunnel of steamers held by the juniors.

Cameras flashed as students picked silly string out of their eyelashes and congratulated each other on closing another chapter of their lives.

When asked how it felt to graduate senior Brittany Zimmerman, 17, said, "It hasn't hit me yet so I don't know."

Several other seniors echoed Zimmerman's feelings of shock.

"It doesn't feel like reality," said senior Katie Beasley, 18.

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Should graduations return to the Grape Bowl?

Lodi Unified leaders are moving Lodi and Tokay high school graduations from the Grape Bowl to the Spanos Center at UOP in Stockton. They cite limited seating, costs and unpredictable weather at the Grape Bowl. But others say graduations at the Grape Bowl are an important Lodi tradition, and one reason many supported renovating the stadium. What do you think?

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