Class of 2019 Receives Diplomas

Nearly 600 students received their high school diplomas Friday in a ceremony held at Amway Arena. Led by valedictorian Maggie Berte and salutatorian Alana Torres, the Class of 2019, which had a 98 percent graduation rate, crossed the stage one by one before dancing their way toward the exits.

Berte addressed the Class of 2019, saying that students’ success “will be determined by your willpower and your ability to persevere.” She noted that the graduates were not the same children they were when they entered high school.

“We need to use the experiences and lessons we’ve learned along the way as steppingstones for our futures,” Berte told her classmates.

Torres expressed her pride in her classmates and noted that they should take pride in overcoming a wide range of challenges.

Principal Jennifer Bellinger spoke passionately to the graduates, encouraging them to dream big. “You have completed one chapter of your story, and you’re walking into the next chapter,” Bellinger noted.

“No matter what path you are taking, you are special. Never compare yourself to anyone else. There is only one you. You are an original,” she added in her speech.

Referring to a quote she read, Bellinger said students will face difficult and sometimes unfair obstacles in their lives. “Break through the obstacle or let the obstacle break you,” she said.

The principal also spoke of Celerino Ronco, whose death early in the school year left many students stunned and heartbroken. “Celerino impacted the lives of many people with his infectious smile and his gentle spirit,” Bellinger said. Bellinger said Celerino wanted everyone he knew to enjoy life. A seat was left vacant in honor of Ronco.

Kat Gordon, the District 5 representative for the Orange County School Board, also spoke to students. Gordon told students, “You have a degree that can make you do anything, make you be anything you want to be.” But, Gordon said, the students must remember the people who helped them along the way.

“You didn’t get there by yourselves,” Gordon said. “Your job is to find somebody that you can help,” she added. “I say to you, rise somebody up with you.”