Students dressed in maroon robes walked one by one through a decorated floral arch marking the entrance into the Pescadero High School’s gym on Wednesday night. Family and friends packed the gym for graduation ceremonies for the school’s Class of 2019.
Those in the audience held balloons and flowers to give their favorite graduates upon completion of a momentous achievement in any young person’s life. The South Coast school is unique because of its small class sizes; many of these 21 graduates have known each other their whole lives.
“It was nice being in the same class. I grew up with these guys,” Emma Jacquez said. After graduation, she is headed to the University of Oregon to study business administration. Jacquez played both softball and volleyball during her high school years and says she will miss being in a place where everyone knows her on a first-name basis.
“If I could use one word to describe what I’ve taken away from the past four years it would be ‘balance.’” said class valedictorian Andres Tepedelenlioglu. “I think high school should be more than just grinding on academics, and I have strived to better myself physically, build good relationships with different people, stay emotionally stable, and explore different passions, while also focusing on school.”
Tepedelenlioglu thanked his teachers and fellow students for his experience the past four years and concluded with a heartfelt acknowledgement dedicated to his parents.
“My parents dragged me all the way to this podium and it should be their names up on this banner, not mine,” Tepedelenlioglu said lightheartedly. In the fall, Tepedelenlioglu will be attending University of California, Berkeley.
Sitting a few rows back in the audience was Anna Fuerst Padilla. Fuerst Padilla, now a principal in Salinas, was the graduating class’s first-grade teacher at Pescadero Elementary School.
“I was Ms. Fuerst, teaching first grade, in Room 1,” Fuerst Padilla said. She said the students before her were her first class as a brand-new teacher more than a decade ago. “It was a magical experience; these were my first kids.”
Fuerst Padilla brought handmade cards with the photos of the students from their first-grade class. She planned to give them to the graduates after the ceremony.
“These were some of my best years teaching in Pescadero. It’s such a small school, so you really get to form a bond with these kids,” Fuerst Padilla said.
Students sat on the stage wearing their mortarboards adorned with rhinestones, tie-dye and flags representing their nationalities. Jose Luis Arellano, a soccer player, said he enjoyed his time at school and growing up in Pescadero. He is going on to study engineering at Cabrillo Community College.
Aspiring photographer Odalys Nabor Gudiel, wearing a red and white paper lei necklace, said she had a good experience at school. During her time at Pescadero she participated in the school’s media classes, taking photos and videos of nature on the Coastside.
Class adviser Wayne Johnson recalled funny memories of the last four years. He recounted fundraisers such as bake sales, school dances and Halloween haunted houses.
“Life is about the journey and the memories,” Johnson said. “I hope you still ask questions and remember think first before you speak and before you act.”
Those in the community helped provide more than $35,000 in scholarships for the Pescadero grads who were recognized for their hard work and dedication.
As loved ones looked on in admiration of the proud students, Pescadero High’s Principal Pat Talbot applauded the graduates for their achievements. This is Talbot’s last time overseeing a graduation ceremony as she announced her retirement earlier this year.
“We came to this school as children and will leave as adults,” said James Stockbridge Souza, class salutatorian. “We’ve progressed through school together with the same classmates, the same teachers and same strong sense of community.”