Thousands of parents and friends attended graduation exercises for 816 seniors at Santa Monica High School last Thursday afternoon.
Under blue skies, Valedictorian Stephanie Ann Thorton, Salutatorians Monica Rose Cowan and Ava Rose Tramer, Student Body President Gus Walsh, and Senior Class President Natalie Moran lead the procession of seniors in blue caps and gowns into the high school’s Greek Theater.
Cheers, homemade signs and balloons were the rule, but the ceremony was not without its poignant moments.
District Superintendent John Deasy noted that the 9/11 tragedy took place only days after the class of ’05 entered Samohi four years ago, and ignited President Bush’s war on terrorism. Deasy called upon the class of ’05 to go forth and bring unity to a divided America, do their best to calm shrill contentiousness, listen to others and build dialogue among our national political factions.
The 2004-2005 academic year was a tumultuous time on the Samohi campus that began with police intervention to stop fights last December and included a campus shutdown due to fights in April and a continuing police presence on campus for much of the remainder of the school year.
Some believe that the continuing tension and outbursts are racially based, and several references were made to them during the graduation ceremonies.
Perhaps the most touching moment of the afternoon was a presentation by four long time friends — seniors Oscar Benitez, Petros Egziabher, Jonathan Lee and Kevin Poindexter. In moving personal testimony, employing both gravity and wit, an African-American, Anglo, Asian-American and Latino described how their collective friendship has transcended the differences.
Shortly thereafter, each graduate’s name was read, the crowd cheered and as the 816 new graduates strolled off-stage toward the audience, Samohi’s CEO Dr. Ilene Straus (the school has six principals) greeted the students.
Approximately 87% of the graduating seniors intend to go on to college, and Samohi graduates won over $6 million in higher education scholarships and grants this year.
Members of the Samohi class of ’05 will attend over 200 colleges and universities including Harvard, Yale and Stanford as well as all nine undergraduate campuses of the University of California and 23 campuses of the California State University system.
Following the ceremonies, most graduates attended the all night Grad Night for graduates only party aboard the S.S. Viking Cruise Ship that is resurrected annually and docks at the school’s tennis courts.
On the night’s program were dancing, casino games, food, a reprise video of the class of ‘05 and other activities. Created some years ago as an alternative to conventional grad night celebrations, the party ensures a safe celebration and is made possible by the volunteer efforts of hundreds of parents and others and the financial support of numerous organizations, starting with the Samohi Viking Alumni Association.
On their way to pick up their diplomas, members of the Graduating class are congratulated by Samohi CEO Dr. Ilene Straus (red robe).
(left)Franchesca Hladik, Monica Reich, and Lisa Llanos dancing to “Celebração”
(right) Student body president Gus Walsh and senior class president Natalie Moran welcome the crowd
Graduating class makes its way to the stage.
Refurbished every year by parents, the cruise ship transports students to Grad Night. Photos by Margaret Molloy