Thirty-two high school seniors clad in maroon caps and gowns hugged, laughed and chatted outside the entrance of the Lodi Academy auditorium moments before they celebrated their commencement with close friends and families Sunday.
The Academy's juniors, dressed in all white, opened the ceremony by walking down the middle aisle in pairs and then welcomed their seniors. When the classic graduation song, "Allegro" came on, each senior walked in slowly, allowing their friends and families to take pictures of them with their tassels to the left and their leis piled around their necks.
Sandra Bunns, a social worker from Stockton, came to see her daughters' friends graduate. Her daughters were not able to attend their friends' graduation because they had to work.
"We all go to the same church in Stockton," Bunns said. "I just came here to support my daughters' friends since they couldn't be here. We all support each other."
The Seventh Day-Adventist private school had a three-day ceremony for the seniors that started on Friday. The previous two nights before the graduation included a consecration and a Class Night, which was a small celebration for the seniors, followed by a reception held by the Class of 2006.
After the seniors took their positions on the front stage, decorated with silver, maroon, black and white balloons, Karey Harty, chair of the Lodi Academy Board, opened with a prayer at the right of the stage.
"Take a deep breath, exhale and may your hearts be at peace," she said to the audience.
She continued with the prayer, turned to the Class of 2005 and said, "You can deal with whatever life brings you."
The crowd turned the attention to the left side of the stage, where Christian Gomorra played the piano and sang, "Someday" with three other seniors, BJ Malqued, Joseph Ervin and Jasper Cruz. Their performance received cheers from the audience, while others whispered about how well their voices sounded.
"The crowd this year is much more responsive than I have seen in the past," Bunns said. "It's nice to see this kind of reaction."
Denis Silber, a teacher at Lodi Unified School District, whose son is a junior at Lodi Academy, was impressed with the overall presence on stage.
"I enjoyed the ceremony," Silber said. "It was inspiring and there was a great emphasis on the call to service. The speech on all the challenges to come was very appropriate."
Godfrey Miranda, a task force teacher, gave the commencement address, which included verses from the bible and the class motto: "Run straight to the goal, with purpose in every step."
"Stay out of the world unless you're going to be part of its solution," Miranda added.
So what are the seniors of Lodi Academy going to do in the world?
Brandon Saxton, 18, is going to San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton, and then plans to transfer to a private school to receive his masters in child psychology.
Elizabeth Marroquin, 18, is going to University of California, Davis to study cell biology.
And Michael Bowen, 18, doesn't know exactly where he's going to college yet, but he wants to be a medical student in the near future.
Bowen's father, David Bowen, is very proud of his son and thought that the ceremony was a little different from when he was in high school.
"There was definitely a lot of silly string," David Bowen said.
When the ceremony ended, seniors and juniors didn't take out their tissues to cry. Instead, they celebrated by laughing and spraying silly string on each other.
Ryan Jamieson, the seniors' history teacher, is leaving Lodi Academy for graduate school. But he's leaving with positive hopes.
"It was wonderful working with them," Jamieson said. "I'm proud of them and they were fantastic. I loved teaching history and I have nothing but good things to say about them. It was good times."