Last year it was the possible rain; this year, the definite wind.
Red and white robes rustled, balloons bounced and pages on the podium fluttered wildly Friday as 432 Lodi High School graduates accepted their diplomas at the Grape Bowl.
At the beginning of the 90-minute ceremony, associated student body president Anna Adams greeted the hundreds of well-wishers and her peers with a poem she penned.
“We’re finally here, Class of 2011,” she said.
It was standing room only, as the number of graduation tickets were reduced due to the elimination of seating during the recent Grape Bowl renovation.
Taylor Lee, senior class president, reminisced at how technology had changed in the last four years.
“If I said I’d tweet you from my iPhone and follow up on Facebook, you’d have no idea what I was talking about,” she said, then turned her attention to issues with bigger impact. “Last year, we could only vote on the class president, and next year we can vote on the president of the United States.”
Valedictorian Emma Greene, who earned a 4.5 grade-point average while battling cystic fibrosis at home, encouraged her peers to make goals and reach beyond their dreams. Study abroad while in college, she said.
It was also an extra special day for Lodi’s quadruplets. Jared Addington, Haley Addington, Hannah Addington and Heather Addington were among the hundreds who received their diplomas.
It was 41 years ago that school board president George Neely sat among the same graduate chairs. In his speech, he congratulated not only the Class of 2011, but their parents and teachers.
“Tonight is a celebration of success,” he said turning his attention back to the seniors. “Take a moment and thank yourselves. You’ve all reached a milestone in life.”
During Friday’s ceremony, several key adults were also recognized.
Tom Nardinelli, the 2010 Lodi High teacher of the year, congratulated Carol Marceau, who was surprised as this year’s recipient. Nardinelli thanked her personally for helping his own son pursue a graphic design degree at California State University, Sacramento.
Registrar Sue Atterberry was named this year’s classified employee of the year. She single-handedly entered every code into the computer system that designated which colleges seniors were headed to or what scholarships they received.
In fact, $2.8 million in scholarships was awarded to the Class of 2011, according to Principal Bob Lofsted.
Friday’s graduation was the first for Lodi High students to be held on the new Grape Bowl synthetic turf. Not only were they prohibited from wearing heels, but to protect the ground, well-wishers had to meet in the Calaveras Street parking lot or elsewhere.
As part of tradition, large letters typically posted along the visiting team side of the field beckoning friends and family to meet their graduates following the ceremony were moved to the lot. It took about 45 minutes for the crowd to move out of the area, according to Lodi Police.
In the end, as temperatures hovered just above 60 degrees for most of the ceremony, unseasonably cool weather got icy as the sun went down on another school year.
Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.