Mustangs win, place and show at graduation

Last Thursday evening saw 356 graduates walk the stage at West Valley

Photos by Corey Evan/The Valley Chronicle
Some 356 graduates enter Mustang Canyon Thursday evening.

■ By Corey Evan / Reporter

Hemet may be a small city by some standard, but it is certainly full of big dreams. This city’s high school graduates have worked hard this year to make their dreams come true. On Thursday May 24, the West Valley High School Class of 2018 harvested the fruits of their struggle.
A standing room crowd filled Mustang Canyon, as 356 graduates donned maroon and white gowns and gathered one last time as classmates. After tonight, they would now be West Valley Alumni.
Principal Janice Jones couldn’t find enough words to express how proud she was of her graduates, naming examples of generosity, endurance and courage, “The Nick Toussaint story has captivated all of us, because of his grit, his hard work and his work ethic…”
For those who may be unaware, Toussaint was the student hit by a car in front of West Valley last school year. He proudly walked across the stage this evening.
Jones continued on, mentioning her students’ efforts in helping Hurricane Harvey victims recover and recoup, “One of our graduates, Andrew Weishaar, he organized that. We donated supplies, after Hurricane Harvey hit, to a school in Houston, so it helped that school.” Jones traveled to Houston to witness the event and greet recipients there.

A regal view of the ceremony from afar.

The academic figures for the 2018 Mustangs are pretty impressive; 327 Mustangs have been accepted to four-year institutions, including 168 to Cal State schools, 81 to UC schools, 85 to private colleges and 23 are going out of state. The class of 2018 also amassed over $3 million in scholarships, including 98 students who were recognized at West Valley’s senior awards night the week prior.
Superintendent Christi Barrett reminded graduates to be brave within their career paths saying, “Class of 2018, don’t play it safe…be courageous and accomplish your dreams!”
Senior class speaker MacKenzie Mennell pointed out to her classmates that it was effort, not mere survival, that got them here, “Graduation isn’t a ceremony you ‘make it’ to…we made it to the first day of first grade. We made it to that big middle school dance everyone roared about all week. We made it to our first high school ceremony held by the commissioners of spirit who at the end of our freshman year sat in these very seats…I want each of you to recognize that these caps, these gowns, and this graduation…each and every one of them has been earned, not ‘made’”.
ASB president Audrey Freeman posed this question, after telling her classmates the story of an eagle that was raised in a chicken coop: “Class of 2018, as you leave the stadium tonight, will you live the rest of your lives soaring high like an eagle…or grounded and dismayed like a chicken? You control your future and your destiny.”
Salutatorian Bobbie Rivers called for a moment of silence on behalf of school shooting victims from this year and previous years by saying, “This is for Columbine. This is for Sandy Hook. This is for Stoneman Douglas. This is for Santa Fe Texas. This is for the countless other students that will never be able to celebrate as we are now.”

Principal Janice Jones shakes hands with graduates.

Valedictorian Aaron Wu recounted the journey his classmates took as they matured throughout high school, “Look at us now…who knew those feral little children could become young adults that our parents and teachers love! Each of us has spent the last 18 years of our lives writing our story.”
These 356 graduates then received the covers for their diplomas with friends and family cheering for each of them and one or two blasting air horns, despite Jones’ printed warning not to in the commencement programs. They then sang the West Valley alma mater one last time together as they turned their tassels. At the end of the evening, streamers, fireworks, and the American Authors’ “Best Day of My Life” filled the air.
From there, many of them would head to Six Flags Magic Mountain for one last gathering as Mustangs before galloping into their respective futures.
As for the future, Jones hopes her students will help change the world for the better, “I hope for them to reach their goals, I hope for them to give back to society, I hope for them to bring kindness and compassion and heart to the world, actually. I know that sounds like a lofty dream, but ultimately, I want them to make the world a better place.”

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