Students, family and friends filled Hutchins Street Square on Thursday morning as Liberty High School held its graduation ceremony. Nearly 70 students received their diplomas ending their high school careers and taking the next steps on their life paths.
Awards and scholarships were handed out to students by the Tokay Rotary Club, Lodi-Woodbridge Rose Society and LUSDAA/ Ellerth Larson Memorial Fund. Three young ladies gave their speeches, each telling of how they got to Liberty High School.
A bubbly Erika Diaz got the class pumped up before getting their degrees.
An emotional Cassandra Saavedra choked up when thanking the school counselor, Elizabeth Garcia, her family and school. She is the first in her family to graduate. Other graduates wiped tears from their eyes. Ruth Hernandez shared her journey through an experience on a hike with her class.
“We were on a hike and a tree had fallen on the trail. I thought, ‘Yes! We are turning back.’ But I was wrong. We climbed over it and continued on,” she said.
It is a familiar message for Liberty High School students.
“If you were to listen to each one of the students up here, the story would be the same,” said acting Principal Jim Jordan. Stories of second chances and surmounting obstacles is a way of life for these students.
Graduates grinned with pride as each of their names were read.
After students were led out into the lobby of the Square, families hugged, gave flowers and took photos.
Georgie Maese, 20, held his goddaughter, Deveah Hernandez, as she played with the tassel hanging from his baby blue mortarboard. His favorite moment in the ceremony was, he said, “waiting to get my name called. It felt good. I was excited.”
Sarah Nixon, 18, of Sacramento felt nauseous afterwards. “It’s been a long way,” she said.
Nixon had fallen behind in homeschooling. Liberty helped her graduate early. She received the Tokay Rotary Scholarship and wants to go into journalism.
For all the students, graduation was the end of one part of life and the beginning of another.
Contact photographer Jennifer Howell at email@example.com.