Graduation are always special – think balloons, tears, flowers, inspirational speeches, standing ovations for the graduates, gymnasiums overflowing with proud family members and friends. Graduations are the stuff of high drama. Weed High’s 2011 graduation, however, was particularly special.

Graduation are always special – think balloons, tears, flowers, inspirational speeches, standing ovations for the graduates, gymnasiums overflowing with proud family members and friends. Graduations are the stuff of high drama. Weed High’s 2011 graduation, however, was particularly special.

“Outstanding” was the word principal Mike Ristuccia used during last week’s graduation ceremony to describe the class of 2011.

“The overall GPA for this class of 38 students is well above 3.0; six carried a GPA of over 4.0,” Ristuccia said. “And that’s just the beginning; this truly is a million dollar group. Together, they earned $34,000 in local scholarships, $340,000 in Ford and college scholarships, and $540,000 in G.I. Bill money.”

“That’s well over $900,000, nearly a million, these students earned to further their education,” Ristuccia noted. “They also set multiple records in all athletics.”

“In academics and athletics, they set a high standard that will be hard to follow. For the past four years, they created an energetic, exciting, and positive atmosphere at our school. Their potential for success is unlimited,” he emphasized.

“Each of you has the chance to make a difference in all of our lives; I know you’ll do great things in the future,” he said to the 38 excited graduates. “I’ll really miss you.”

Those sentiments were echoed by Siskiyou Union High School District superintendent Mike Matheson, who said, “This really is an outstanding class. I’m proud of them, as I am of all our high school graduates.”

District board member and assistant basketball coach Joe Blevins, who presented diplomas along with board member Susan Tavalero, expressed appreciation for Weed High School’s “classical, traditional” graduation ceremony. He said, “This one’s special since I know several of the students.”

“I feel great about doing this,” Tavalero laughed. “I’m handing a diploma to my son – it’s a lifetime dream come true!”

“This is a very special group,” she added. “About 15 have known each other since kindergarten. In kindergarten, they were a great class; 13 years later, they’re still a great group of kids. There’s not a bad apple in the bunch!”

She said all the graduates, “except Jake West, who will be leaving for a golf tournament, will be at tonight’s sober grad party. Twenty-eight are going to Disneyland; all earned their own money. They’re an outstanding group!”

The graduation speakers moved the audience to laughter, tears, and a standing ovation.

Salutatorian Elizabeth DeRoss thanked the Weed High staff, family, and friends for their years of love and support, naming a dozen “special” individuals. “Thank you for all the opportunities to learn,” she noted.

She fought back tears, as did the 300 in the bleachers and on the stage, when she thanked her father, Dan DeRoss, who had been an inspirational coach and teacher to all 38 students. “You and I became closer during this time,” she said. “Thank you for what you taught me in and out of the class; thank you for what you taught us all.”

“We’ve seen revolutions during these last four years,” said Danny Ngouyaphanh, who delivered the valedictorian address. “We’re now old enough to make our own revolutions.” His classmates cheered at this declaration.

“We’re ready to face new challenges, to take the necessary steps to succeed, and we’ll guide others along their way,” he continued.

“There’s just one thing I ask of you, my classmates,” Ngouyaphanh said during his conclusion. “Fulfill your dreams, and then surpass them!” Again, he was met with cheers.

ASB President Gregg Holguin introduced Dan DeRoss, who had been unanimously selected by the graduating class to deliver the commencement address. “Coach DeRoss holds a special place in our lives,” Holguin said.

“Your presence enhanced us all,” DeRoss noted. “We’re proud of your accomplishments; yours is a class that deserves to be commended and celebrated. Always remember, what’s in you is what counts. Act, Dream. Plan. Believe!”

“Your life matters; what you do will affect everyone you know,” he added. “Ask yourself the tough questions: Why do I exist? What’s my purpose? Examine these questions; let your answers guide you.”

“I admonish you to love those who are important in your lives and those who are in need,” DeRoss said. “Give of yourself – love and give.”

“I celebrate you; it’s been a privilege to know you. Always be proud of graduating from Weed High School!”

The students and audience gave DeRoss a standing ovation as he stepped from the podium.

Cheers and laughter filled the gymnasium as students received their diplomas, moved their tassels to signify their graduation, and sang the school hymn. Joyfully, the outstanding event came to its end as the proud group of 38 stepped into their futures.

“I’m sure these students will be the leaders to keep American strong,” SUHSD board member Linda Wallace smiled.