'Inspiring' Weed High graduating class says goodbye

Steve Gerace
Green and white balloons swirled and popped after 40 Weed High High School graduates received their diplomas Thursday evening on the gymnasium stage.  More photos can be found at  Photo by Steve Gerace

The lessons learned and appreciation for the “idyllic place” where it all took place were two themes running through the 2013 Weed High School Graduation Ceremony Thursday evening, June 6.

It was hot and the gym was packed with family, friends and other well-wishers who saw 40 graduates receive their diplomas at the end from Siskiyou Union High School trustees Sue Tavalero and Jana Blevins.

It’s not the diploma that matters as much as “what you’ve learned and what you do with it,” said faculty member Amy Chizek in her Graduation Address. “I know you’re going to be great; you already are.”

Principal Mike Matheson called the graduates “an inspiring class” and suggested they “take one last look around and think about what you have added to the tradition and memories of Weed High School.”

Weed, Matheson said, “is a unique and wonderful place. You will gain a deeper appreciation for how unique it is after you leave. Please remember this special place called Weed. I hope you have the opportunity to visit frequently to rekindle your spirit.”

Many thank yous were expressed and many memories recounted.

Graduate Noah Gonzalez recognized three retiring staff members: “bright and creative” English and drama teacher Shirley Manley, “sweet and kind” secretary Mikie Mulvihill, and “strong-willed and talented” art teacher Robert Caillier. “You will all be remembered and greatly missed,” Gonzalez said.

Elizabeth Stensaas, one of three members of the Class of 2013 to give a Valedictorian Address, thanked the parents, businesses and individuals “who love and support this idyllic place.”

She said the education they received would be hard to duplicate elsewhere, and the school’s small size allowed them to pursue endeavors that might not be available in other places.

“The Class of 2013 is a reflection of you, the community of Weed, California, and we hope to make you proud,” Stensaas said.

Valedictorian Karene Marshall recounted lessons learned at each high school grade level.

As freshmen, “We learned you have to start at the bottom and have to work hard.”

Sophomore year, she said, “I learned I couldn’t do everything by myself and needed others to help me... We had to work together and work hard to be here.”

As a junior, “I learned the importance of teamwork,” Marshall said.

Then, after diving in “headfirst, ready to take on the world senior year,” she recounted the struggle to avoid “procrastination and excuses.”

In the end, “We learned a lot about each other and ourselves,” said Marshall. “Everyone in this class is a fighter. We will stand behind each other... As long as we learn from our mistakes and move on, we will make it.”

Valedictorian Luke Hart began by quoting from the Dr. Seuss book Happy Birthday To You: “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

He noted the “big push in high school to conform,” but also a shift in the world toward seeking out individuality.

“Now we realize we can celebrate our differences,” Hart said.

Then he concluded that, “We are best when we are part of something bigger than ourselves.”

He said his classmates understand that personal gifts and talents are best used “to promote something larger than themselves... Never be afraid to offer yourself for a purpose greater than who you are.”

In her Welcome Address, Salutatorian Eva Escatel said, “Something very important connected all of us: we’re all Weed Cougars... Let this ceremony be a reminder of all our experiences together. Wherever we go, we all have WHS alumni behind us to help us succeed.”

Introduced by Marshall, Chisek said she started as a first-year teacher when the Class of 2013 started at Weed High School as freshmen. She thanked them for selecting her to speak.

“I’m proud of you guys; you should be proud of your achievement,” she said. “The coming years are dependent on you and your imagination.”

Chisek praised the graduates for their “perseverance and determination” and detailed her own need for perseverance after a first year that left her questioning if she’d made the right career choice.

She gave birth to “my baby girl” sophomore year, came back to school mid-year, and eventually “built stronger student-teacher relationships and also friendships.”

Along the way, she highlighted the Class of 2013’s quest to be spirit point champions, which came to fruition in year three.

She said her own development led to becoming “a mixture of teacher, counselor, friend and mother over the four years.”

“We’ve all learned a lot,” she said.

Some of the graduates stepped off the stage to sing in the Jazz Choir under the direction of Greg Eastman, which sang the National Anthem and “Ordinary World” by Kerry Marsh.

Senior Class President Jeni Cheffey led the Flag Salute before the first speech, and the Class of 2013 was joined by WHS Alumni singing the School Hymn before the Recessional, “Can’t Hold Us” by Macklemore.

As a group, the WHS Class of 2013 received over half a million dollars in scholarships during their awards night the week before graduation.

With diplomas in hand and smiling faces, they gathered with loved ones outside the gym for one last experience together, as the shade spread and Mt. Shasta stood high to the east.