Saturday, May 15, 2021     Volume: 22, Issue: 11

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on May 20th, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 12 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 21, Issue 12

High school districts in the county plan virtual and postponed ceremonies, drive-through celebrations, to honor graduating seniors

By Malea Martin

The Santa Maria Joint Union High School District’s four schools are celebrating their seniors with a mix of virtual graduation ceremonies, drive-though celebrations, and pre-recorded speeches.

District Public Information Officer Kenny Klein told the Sun that there are no plans to reschedule in-person graduations for later dates—these will be the official proceedings in these “historic times” for the roughly 2,000 seniors the district is graduating this year.

“What we’re working on with the virtual [graduations] is we’re going to record speeches for the valedictorian, the salutatorian, the principal,” Klein said. “But discussions are still happening as we speak.”

Ahead of virtual and drive-through graduation ceremonies planned for early June, some local valedictorians and salutatorians received honors at home. Here, Pioneer Valley High School Valedictorian Naomi Mau is awarded her certificate by Principal Shanda Herrera on May 11.

Santa Ynez High School is opting to postpone official celebrations until later this summer in hopes that its seniors can have a “traditional, in-person ceremony by then,” a May 4 letter from Principal Mark Swanitz to the class of 2020 states. 

“I think to settle for anything less just to stick to a schedule does not adequately honor all that you have done and accomplished,” Swanitz wrote in the letter. “I, like you, am optimistic that we can give you the ceremony you want and deserve by postponing it.” 

The graduation ceremony was pushed to July 24, but the high school is handing out senior yard signs and diploma covers on May 22.

Lompoc Unified School District’s plan depends on how public health recommendations unfold, the district’s website states. If restrictions allow for public gathering by May 21, graduation ceremonies will take place as planned. If not, Maple High School will have a drive-up celebration from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on June 3, and Lompoc and Cabrillo high schools will have a drive-through celebration at the same time on June 4. 

Cabrillo High School Principal Isidro Carrasco told the Sun in an email that the district is waiting until May 21 to make the final call.

Santa Maria’s virtual celebrations will commence with Delta High School on June 4. Senior Delta Dragons will be celebrated in a video commencement, through a link on the school’s website, at 2 p.m. According to a district press release, “It will include speeches, a guest speaker, and photos of the students.” There will also be a drive-through event from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on May 28.

Santa Maria High School’s virtual ceremony starts at 11 a.m. on June 5, with the link to the ceremony accessible via the Santa Maria Saints’ website. Later that day at 1 p.m., graduates can get their diplomas at a drive-through celebration near campus on Thornburg Street. On May 6, the school’s valedictorian, Cristian Ramirez Morales, and salutatorian, Isaac Ochoa, received socially distanced home visits and honorary certificates from Principal Steve Campbell.

The Righetti Warriors will also celebrate virtually on June 5 with a YouTube link set to go live at 9:30 a.m., Klein said. The link will be posted on the school’s website and sent to all families of seniors. On May 4, Valedictorian Ian Tosches and Salutatorian Bridget Lee received their certificates from Principal Karen Rotondi at their homes. 

“Normally, the honors involve a handshake too—but this year it was facemasks and social distancing,” a press release said.

Pioneer Valley High School’s drive-through celebration is planned from 9 a.m. to noon in the student parking lot. The school is still working out the virtual element, but a link will be available on Pioneer’s website at 5 p.m. the day before. In step with the other local high schools, Pioneer Valley’s valedictorian and salutatorian—Naomi Mau and Damian Magana—received their certificates in a home visit from Principal Shanda Herrera. 

“Our graduation plans are based on mandates from state and local authorities. Despite the restrictions that keep changing day to day during this crisis, we’re committed to creating memories for the class of 2020,” Klein said of the historic ceremonies. “Our students, in 20 years or in 25 years, will be telling their kids about this.”

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