Standing in line, two by two, students wearing black robes, hand-decorated mortarboards and flower leis took selfies with their cellphones. Parents, friends and Half Moon Bay High School staff cheered while holding posters like,"Congrats to the Grads!" as students names are called to walk down to the seats near the stage. “Pomp and Circumstance” played in a room decorated with an orange and black balloon arch hanging overhead.
On June 13, Half Moon Bay High School celebrated the graduating class of 2019 at the Cabrillo Unified School District event center.
The ceremony opened with Kasandra Acosta, Jacquelyn Dellins, Logan Kennedy, Leah Kissick, Allen Li and Melanie Ourique singing the “Star Spangled Banner” to a cheering crowd. Half Moon Bay principal John Nazar took the stage to welcome students, family members and friends to commemorate this joyous occasion.
He said this class “will always hold a special place in his heart” as four years ago Nazar became principal. This is his first set of students he’s been with from start to finish.
“We have grown together over the past four years and while I will be staying here, the impacts you have made will stay with us for years to come,” Nazar said.
He applauded the students on their academic success, boasting that 46 students earned a grade-point average of 4.0 or above, topping last year’s record by five students. Nazar acknowledged the graduating class’s hand in starting a “Kindness Campaign” at the school during their junior year. “This is a legacy that will live on at the school,” Nazar said.
He ended his address to the 216 graduates with advice he gives every day. “Work hard, be kind to one another and have a great day,” he said.
Salutatorian Max Paik started his speech with an update on the score of the Golden State Warriors NBA finals game. “Don’t shoot the messenger,” he said after delivering the news the team was lagging behind during the second quarter.
Paik reflected on his time at Half Moon Bay, thanking one of his instructors for teaching him that “we all have the agency to choose how we lead our lives.”
“You have all taught us so much, but it is the stuff that isn’t in the syllabus that is most important and is what we will each take with us as we go out into the world,” said valedictorian Rachel Brody. “We have grown intellectually and emotionally, owned the talents we brought with us and discovered ones we didn’t know we had.”
Brody described her fellow graduates as great athletes, talented musicians, skillful artists, writers, entrepreneurs, farmers and entertainers.
“What inspires me most about this class is how every one of us pursues our passions,” Brody said. “Out of the diversity comes a sense of belonging. We have all grown together and that is what we are all celebrating together.”
As students accepted their diplomas, past and present photos were shown on the screen above the stage.
For Lisa O’Keefe, watching son Jack Mettam graduate was a special honor, as she too is a graduate of Half Moon Bay High School.
“He’s my son, my first born. I am very excited to see him graduate,” O’Keefe said. Mettam played shortstop for the school’s baseball team. He’s going on to study business at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
Mettam is just one of the 28 graduating seniors who has a family member who walked the halls as a Cougar and graduated from Half Moon Bay High School.
As Grady Kirsch prepared to walk across the stage to receive his diploma, his family had tears in their eyes. Kirsch, who also received a biliteracy award for his proficiency in Spanish, is committed to studying engineering at Northeastern University this fall.
On hand to congratulate the Class of 2019 was retiring Cabrillo Unified School District Superintendent Jane Yuster and CUSD board trustees Kimberly Hines and Sophia Layne.
“If the group of students sitting before us represents the future, the earth will be in good hands,” Nazar said.