The California R-1 School District gave a fond farewell to the class of 2022 during its graduation on Sunday.
California High School seniors walked onto Riley Field to the processional "Pomp and Circumstance" as friends and family in the stands showed their support. After graduates lined up in their seats, CHS Principal Sean Kirksey welcomed students to their commencement ceremony.
Once Kirksey finished speaking, attendees received a special performance from the Senior Concert Band, led by Director Jacob Small. The band played "Moscow, 1941" by Brian Balmages to celebrate this year's graduation.
Superintendent Dwight Sanders introduced CHS senior Lillie Eichelburger as commencement speaker for the class's commencement. In her speech, Eichelburger quoted the film "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" in relation to the journey she and her classmates shared together.
"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it," Eichelburger said. "And now here we are, reminiscing all the memories, good and bad, wondering how these four years have gone by so quickly."
She recounted her classmates' time as freshmen, explaining, although it might have taken some time to get used to, students succeeded in settling into their new environment. However, this changed during their sophomore year when the COVID-19 pandemic began.
"In March, we heard the news about COVID and we were ecstatic about the 'two-week long break' we were getting. How wrong we were," Eichelburger said. "We didn't get to come back to school and, sooner than we thought possible, we were juniors ... we had a tough year ahead of us, but we all grew and now here (as) seniors, getting ready to walk across this stage and graduate. How the times have changed."
Eichelburger said she learned more from high school than she expected. In addition to the many educational courses, CHS also taught her "to always and unconditionally be yourself." She said in high school and in life, no matter how many friends you have or how many awards you win, you won't be happy unless you are "authentically you."
Eichelburger gave thanks to CHS math, English, science and history departments, custodians and cooking staff, fine arts teachers, coaches and school counselors for their dedication to students. She also thanked every other teacher, staff member and every parent in attendance.
However, Eichelburger saved her most important thanks for her fellow graduates. As her speech came to a close, she thanked seniors for filling the last four years with memories and friendships she will never forget.
Eichelburger gave the class of 2022 some final words of encouragement before accepting their diplomas.
"I'm sure some of us will venture off to college, while others go straight into the workforce ... who knows, maybe one of us will finally find the cure for cancer or become the next president of the United States," Eichelburger said. "There's so much that we could accomplish if we'd have said we'd put our minds to it. So as we continue on this amazing journey we call life, in the words of Ferris Bueller, 'The question isn't: What are we going to do? The question is: What aren't we going to do?'"
The Senior Choir performed a rendition of "More to Me" by Pinkzebra for the class of 2022, led by Director Michele Bilyeu.
Kirksey gave the presentation of the class of 2022. Fellow school board members Paul Bloch, Brandy Brockes, Brandon Dunham, Allison Kruger, Landon Porter and Ryan Porter worked alongside VanLoo, Kirksey and Sanders as they handed out diplomas to graduates.
Students returned to their seats, and Bilyeu led singing the CHS alma mater.
2022 class President Alyssa Roney gave the closing comments. She addressed her fellow classmates with congratulations for a successful lifetime full of educational experiences.
"The class of 2022 faced change and accepted it. As we look toward changes to come, let us not fear," Roney said. "Let us face this change as we have with others. With great courage ... and acceptance."