Stepping into adulthood, one diploma at a time

By Raiza Giorgi

As one of three student commencement speakers, Caleb Wright showed wisdom beyond his years as he advised his graduating classmates at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School to work hard at every aspect of their lives and to measure success by the people they affect.

As approximately 180 students culminated their 13 years of education from kindergarten through high school at the graduation ceremony, screams of joy and pops of confetti filled the air on the high school football field.

“I am going to miss seeing my friends every day and my little sister, but I am excited for the next step and leaving the valley for awhile,” Anastazia Garcia said as she stood outside the New Gym talking about the future with her friends.

She will be attending Santa Barbara City College in the fall.

Aislinn Sevilla, 18, of Santa Ynez will also be attending SBCC to work toward a degree in physical therapy.

“I had a lot of surgeries and my therapists really helped me, so I am inspired to help others,” she said.

To begin the ceremony, Legna Garcia sang the “Star Spangled Banner” and received cheers as she finished.

In the class of 2017, 42 graduates had grade-point averages above 4.0. They earned 169 scholarships and/or grants totaling more than $256,000, and $144,000 of that total was raised locally.

The graduating class also had the highest percentage in 22 years of students at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School entering continuing education. Principal Mark Swanitz noted that 44.4 percent of them will be going to four-year colleges and 46.4 percent to community colleges.

Others are entering the workforce or technical schools. For example, Matthew Goodwin will be going to iron-worker school and wants to come back to work locally. Others, including Hannah Marchi, are entering the military.

“This was a great class, and I am proud of their accomplishments and wish them all the success in the world,” said Chip Fenenga, who completed his 33rd year of teaching.

Three graduates — Gloria Sevilla, Caleb Wright and Flora ElmColone — spoke at the commencement. Sevilla compared the completion of high school to the metamorphosis of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly as students spread their wings on the way to adulthood.

Students eagerly awaited the chance to shake hands with school board members as they were handed their diplomas.

See our photo gallery below