Individual stories shared at Jefferson High graduation

Skye Kinkade
Jefferson High School graduate NeArthur Walker wears a big grin as he accepts his diploma from Siskiyou Union High School District trustee John Hines last Thursday, June 12.

Among the graduates sitting on stage Thursday evening at Jefferson High School’s graduation were soon-to-be moms, single dads, aspiring lawyers, and those who worked ahead to graduate early.

Teachers spoke about the strengths and accomplishments of each individual and gave them advice to carry into their futures during the June 12 graduation ceremony at Mount Shasta City Park.

From this point forward, said Principal Ed Stokes, “your curriculum is all electives... look for what you love.”

Speaking on behalf of the students was Happy Camp’s Ashley Baker, who will soon be a mother. She thanked her parents for their support, as well as teacher Keven Brown and his wife, Angelika, principal at Happy Camp High School.

She said a baby might slow her completion of law school, but she plans to work toward her goals and “make a life for my family.”

When Ashley received her diploma, Keven Brown said she will be an excellent mother, since she’s one of the kindest and smartest students he’s ever known. She has always been a straight A student who traveled to Europe with her classmates last year and was “a charming representative of American culture.”

“Go for it,” said Brown about Ashley’s goal of pursuing a law degree. “You’ve got what it takes.”

Student speaker NeArthur Walker said he had a speech planned, but instead “freestyled” it.

“High school was hard,” he said. “I came to Jefferson full of myself, but now, I know the sky is my oyster, and I’m just going to sit on top.”

Teacher Tim Loughlin said the best word to describe NeArthur is “charisma.”

“He’s the nicest guy in school... he’s all about sports,” said Loughlin. “It’s a pleasure to have someone so caring of other students and so open to everybody.”

Dalton Allec did his senior project on taxidermy and plans to enroll in fire classes this summer. Brittany Aquila was described as “opinionated and focused, a strong student.”

McLoughlin said he has never seen a student work so hard at anything as Uriel Avila did this year in math.

Brown said Michael “Joey” Gomes is a single dad who is raising a two year old with the help of his parents. He plans to attend College of the Siskiyous next year and hopes to play basketball.

Carl Lockridge showed up at school at 7:30 a.m. each morning and often did twice as much work in order to finish early, said teacher Melissa Moore.

“Something Carl always says is, he wants to become somebody that makes his young son proud, and I think he is,” Moore said.

Kimberly O’Connell thanked her friends and family. She plans to attend COS, then Sonoma State.

Anthony Peruzzi is a “dedicated individual” who has only a year left at COS before earning his welding degree.

Moore said Tyler Smith is a person who sets out to prove people wrong who have said he can’t do something. “He’s living up to the potential he’s set for himself,” she said.

Alyssa Titus juggles a young son, a part time job, and school. She is a “top-notch writer,” and Brown said he would hire her as an editor, since she is a perfectionist.

Angelina Velasco believes “a day without laughter is a day wasted,” said Loughlin, and he will remember her smile in his classes. She wants to become a pediatric nurse practitioner after traveling around the world.

Ivy Winger had only a brief stay at Jefferson, said Loughlin. She plans to attend American River College to get a BA in Criminal Justice.

Michael Jordan missed more than 9,000 shots in his career, Stokes said during his speech. He lost almost 300 games, and 26 times he missed when taking what would have been a game-winning shot.

Stokes quoted Jordan: “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that’s why I succeed.”

“Babe Ruth once said, ‘Every strike brings me closer to the next home run,’” said Stokes, and he quoted John Lennon: “When I was five years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy.’ They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”

Presenting diplomas were Siskiyou Union High School District trustees Sue Tavalero and John Hines.