After having been told that her valedictory address was full of clichés and empty messages, Hilmar High School Class of 2015 Valedictorian Whitney Williams admitted on Thursday that she had almost entirely changed her speech just before the school’s commencement ceremony.
“There’s only one Hilmar and Hilmar deserves more,” said Williams.
Instead Williams switched out the stereotypical situations that are experienced by nearly every senior in any other town, including senior sunrise and grad night, for something a little more personal.
“This is the place where there’s a good probability that half of the audience today does not have any family members graduating, but yet they still come out to honor us,” said Williams. “This is the school where one phone call to dad can get you a backhoe, water truck, bulldozer or trailer-sized barbeque within minutes if need be.”
Among other qualities, Williams noted that what made Hilmar special is the fact that the school’s football stadium is not only used for football, but for soccer, track, cancer walks, graduation and tractor pulls.
“You’re never going to attend a tractor pull in the stadium of Palisades High School,” laughed Williams.
Williams reminisced about the success of the volleyball teams both in the mud and especially on the floor. She talked about the laughs that were easily generated by the school’s donkey basketball games and how lucky students were to have Marta Wickstrom in the counseling office to serve as a mother figure to all.
“This is Hilmar, we’ve been here for over 100 years,” said Williams. “We are rooted in tradition, tradition that is unique to a small town that I am proud to have grown up and have gone to school in.
“The experiences we have all shared here will have us bleeding green and gold till long after we graduate,” added Williams.
As Salutatorian of her graduating class, Cristina Rocha assured her classmates that this ceremony did not mark the end of their childhood, or the end of all the fun experiences they have had over the years.
“In reality, this is just the beginning,” said Rocha.
Rocha encouraged everyone to think of how far they have come since freshman year—all the things they have sacrificed and accomplished, all the hours they spent attending class, doing homework and projects, and all the time they spent studying and practicing on the field.
“It was all worth it, everything we have done so far,” said Rocha. “All of the decisions we have made and all of the work we have put in has brought us to this point and we should all be very proud.”
Not only did Rocha prompt her peers to remember the past, but she also told them to look towards the future. Rocha noted that everything that the graduating class has been through, whether it taught them, challenged them, broke them or built them, it made them into the strong men and women they are today.
“Today is the start of the rest of our lives where there will be more losses, more bad days, and more challenges,” said Rocha, “but there will also be wins, amazing days and accomplishments.
“Never give up because every day we are working towards the start of something new,” added Rocha.
Although Principal Jeremy Nichols has only known the graduating class for a short time, it did not hinder his ability to characterize the seniors as enlightened and committed.
“This class set out from the beginning of the year to make a difference at Hilmar High School,” said Nichols. “Their commitment was evident at sporting event and school activities throughout the year.
“With their positive attitude and leadership, they made Hilmar High School a great place to be,” added Nichols.
Nichols was also happy to report that out of the 152 students who graduated on Thursday, 39 will be attending a four-year institution in the fall, with most set to attend California State University, Stanislaus or University of California, Merced. A few students have reported that they will be attending CSU Sacramento, CSU Chico, Cal Poly or UC Davis.
Another 85 seniors plan on attending a local community college next fall, eight plan on attending a technical or vocational school, and seven students are considering joining the military as a postsecondary option.
“That is 139 seniors continuing their education from the class of 2015,” said Nichols.