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story.lead_photo.caption California High School 2019 graduates toss their graduation caps into the air to celebrate their completion of secondary education May 19 at California High School. Photo by Danisha Hogue / California Democrat.

One hundred seven California High School seniors crossed the stage May 19 to collect their diplomas, which, were celebrated as the new graduates tickets to the world in front of them.

California High School's 2019 graduation ceremony began with words of comfort and praise from Sean Kirksey, the campus principal.

"I want to welcome and thank all guests here for joining us," Kirksey said. "To our seniors, I remind you there is no limit to your accomplishments. If ever you need help from any of us, you have our support. There will be no hesitation on our part: you are more than worth the effort to help."

Commencement speaker Emily Gray, who will go on to pursue music education at State Fair Community College, then brought a perspective to her fellow graduates.

"This is it," Gray said. "This brief chapter is all over, but it's been our whole lives. Time really flew, huh?"

"Those front doors will open for us to leave here for the last time, marking us as young adults as we take on the world whether we are ready or not. Once we pass, they will swing shut in a sorrowful goodbye," she said. "I see the faces of the alumni who have sat just where we are mirrored in your eyes. This feeling must be how they felt when their time came.

"I think the right word is melancholy. We have so much future in front of us, but we are leaving so much behind."

Kirksey then announced two of his former students who will join the ranks of a different kind of workforce.

"This country will remain free, so long as we are the home of the brave," he said. "We have two seniors who have decided to join the military after graduation: Colton Foss has decided to join the Army, and Tyler Korte will serve with the United States Marine Corps."

Foss and Korte stood in recognition of their future service to the country.

Amid the flow of emotion, the senior choir performed together for the last time "I Was Here," arranged by Alan Billingsley, and the band played "Moscow, 1941" by Brian Balmages with senior instrumentalists' final encore.

Just before the last words of encouragement from Kirksey, class president Molly Forsythe passed down a family adage to her peers.

"My grandmother would always tell me, 'You are so special,'" Forsythe said. "She said this so often until she passed away. I want you all to remember just how special you are. We are all so equipped to tackle anything that comes our way, and we are all so very ready to make an impact on this world."

As the class in its entirety stood to move their graduation tassels from the right to the left, Kirksey bid them one final reminder:

"You are all Pintos, now and forever," Kirksey said. "Represent us well."

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