Hundreds of people packed the stands at University of the Pacific’s Alex G. Spanos Center in Stockton on a warm Friday evening, eager to watch the Lodi High School Class of 2019 graduate.

With nearly every seat in the house filled, some parents stood in the aisles while others were able to sit in the front row. Wendy Jean Hyde, mother of graduate Emma Colarossi, was one of the front-row parents.

“I couldn’t be more proud,” Hyde said. “She’s worked so hard, and (was) really dedicated.”

Colarossi — one of Lodi High’s “most distinguished” graduates with a grade-point average of 4.0 or higher — will attend Boston College in the fall, Hyde said.

“She’s also just like sunlight, a beautiful person inside and out,” Hyde said. “Striving to do her best, but still putting everyone else ahead of herself.”

Dressed in either red or white caps and gowns, the graduates strolled triumphantly down the aisle as “Pomp and Circumstance” played over the speakers, waving to their loved ones in the stands before taking their seats.

Beaming with pride, Associated Student Body President Mikayla Lozano walked onto the stage to deliver a welcome speech, reflecting on the sleepless nights, hours of homework and studying, sports practice and other activities that made up the past four years she shared with her fellow graduates.

“We have made great memories that we will hold close to our hearts forever, and many lifelong friendships,” Lozano said.

Lozano thanked the parents, guardians, teachers and staff who taught compassion, integrity, dedication and citizenship to her and her fellow graduates, before addressing the graduates themselves.

“As I stand before you tonight, Class of 2019, I see full potential in all 480 of you,” Lozano said.

After encouraging Lodi High’s freshmen, sophomores and juniors to strive for excellence in everything they do, Lozano wished her fellow graduates the best as they begin the next chapters in their lives.

“Keep this night in your hearts forever,” Lozano said. “We did it, Lodi. It’s been lit.”

Gary Knackstedt, president of the Lodi Unified School District Board of Education, followed Lozano’s speech with a few pieces of advice for the graduates: Change the rules instead of breaking them, document everything and never let school get in the way of their education.

“What that means is that you can learn a lot outside of the classroom,” Knackstedt said. “Lodi, congratulations. This is your night.”

Knackstedt then introduced Senior Class President Marissa Fabian, who began her own speech by thanking the friends and family of the graduates who listened with rapt attention.

“If you are here, I am sure you impacted at least one graduate in more ways than you know,” Fabian said.

Fabian then congratulated Principal Bob Lofsted on his retirement, before wishing success and happiness for her fellow graduates.

“Thank you for the past four years,” Fabian said. “L’s up.”

Fabian ended her speech by passing the ceremonial “Lamp of Learning” to Nathan Shoup, the 2020 senior class president-elect who took a moment to bid a fond farewell to the graduating seniors.

“May these future years bring you more opportunities and memories than the last four years ever could,” Shoup said. “Congratulations, Class of 2019, on behalf of the Class of 2020.”

After Lofsted presented the most distinguished honors plaques to graduates with GPAs of 4.0 or higher, he introduced Sam Wright, Lodi High’s valedictorian.

“We are all gathered here tonight at the junction of our childhood and adulthood,” Wright said. “It’s truly an amazing feat the lengths we went through to get here.”

Wright encouraged his fellow graduates to keep improving as they strive to find success and purpose in the future, and thanked the parents and grandparents for the sacrifices they made over the past four years.

Asking his classmates to look into the future to their own children’s graduations, Wright urged them to focus on making memories and finding personal fulfillment as they take the next steps into adulthood.

“Choose love, choose happiness, but most important of all, choose yourself,” Wright said.

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