LCHS Salutes Graduates, and Gratitude Is Major Theme

Maya White, Pru Yontrarak, ben Lee and Yasmine Kaki

The Rose Bowl Stadium packed with more than 90,000 spectators is a sight to behold, but it was just as grand last week when it was the site of an unforgettable 2021 La Cañada High School commencement ceremony and attendees filled barely more than 1% of the landmark’s capacity.
About 1,450 people gathered — socially distanced, of course — at the stadium to celebrate a senior class that spent the majority of its final high school year at home in front of a computer screens and listening to teachers via Zoom. Schools throughout the state pivoted to distance learning in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, creating a new generation of learners known as “Zoomers.”
After a difficult year marked by a coronavirus that killed more than 24,000 Los Angeles County residents, destructive wildfires in the area and a presidential election that divided a nation, it was perhaps natural that the theme of all of the commencement speakers was gratitude.
“This last year has been anything but simple with the COVID-19 pandemic, the wildfires, the presidential election and the Black Lives Matter movement to name a few,” graduating senior Seema Kavali told her classmates. “If there’s any takeaway from this whole experience, it’s that we have learned to be appreciative, creative and patient, tools we can carry along with us as we continue our journey in life.
“We were forced to grow up quickly and process the world unfolding around us. What you go through now, tomorrow, next year and so on prepares you for what has to come next. I am so proud of all of us.”
Madeleine Reinoso expressed a similar sentiment in her speech, saying that “the year was far from perfect, but it was ours. Regardless of all the hardships and challenges we faced this past year, we persevered and made it here today.”
Jack Salcido and Noah Truong teamed up to deliver a speech that introduced some levity and described a day in the life of a senior “Zoomer, defined by their reclusive nature, lack of an official SAT score and hypersomnia despite waking at 11 a.m. every single [day]. Zoomers are the result of nearly unlimited screen time and a year of isolation.”
The two Spartans, like the entire class of 2021, made the most of their distance learning experience and reminded classmates of what the group accomplished. They celebrated ways in which the senior class was a pioneer — such as being the first to have its own Chromebooks provided by the La Cañada Unified School District, to take physics freshman year, to begin class at 8:30 a.m. all four years instead of the “dreaded” 7:30 a.m. start time that was changed four years ago, and to have a prom held on campus.
Principal Jim Cartnal gave the final speech and returned to the theme of gratitude, saying, “That we’re here is the victory. Together, in person, on one of the grandest stages in the land. And that we are here says a great deal about who we are as a learning community and what we value.”
“While many other school communities struggled with access, struggled with engagement and struggled with campus cohesion, our students and families remain committed to our core value that education matters, learning matters and that you matter,” Cartnal said. “ … Other hard times will no doubt come, but you know how to respond because you kept working, you kept applying yourself, you kept caring and you gave everything that you could to be successful, and I’m so grateful.”

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