BASS LAKE — The paparazzi and the mama-razzi were out in full force taking pictures of the 18 students who are deemed Pitman Award recipients for Yosemite High School’s graduating class of 2016.
The 30th annual Paul and Martha Pitman Awards Banquet was held on the Gazebo Deck at the Pines resort in the students’ honor on May 4, with parents, friends, family, teachers, administrators and community in attendance.
The sounds of laughter and happy-teary sniffles filled the mild evening air as the sun set behind Bass Lake, while the big group was treated to an introduction of these students and their many accomplishments. Full disclosure: our daughter Clara is one of the recipients this year and, like others in the room, we could not be more proud of her, and all the kids we’ve come to know and adore over the years.
The 18 Pitman Scholars aka valedictorians for the Class of 2016 are, alphabetically, Mackenzie Behrens, Naryan Black, Brook Lynn Bragdon, Clara Briley, Rose Curley, Gianna DeFelice, Allie Donnell, Isabella Flaherty, Quentin Lawrence, Connor McMechan, Tanner Meeks, Jenny Mills, Meagan Montalto, Brendan Rhoan, Tyler Wallace, Katie Whitcomb, Travis Wood and Trevor Wood.
Sierra Tel’s Laura Norman greeted families with smiles and hugs and gave a reassuring talk about what we could expect as our kids graduate from high school (YHS graduation is set for June 8) and begin their matriculation through the next stage of life.
Principal Randy Seals and District Superintendent Jim Sargent were present to laud the students, all of whom managed to maintain at least a 4.0 grade point average throughout every semester of their four-year high school career. This is not an easy feat to master, as many of the students are enrolled in upper-level courses, athletics, band, clubs and extra-curriculars, as well as being in pursuit of an International Baccalaureate diploma through YHS.
After a delicious dinner by Ducey’s, with cake and cupcakes by Sweet Dreams Cakery in Oakhurst, the students and their audience were treated to something a little different this year, in the form of a roast — of sorts — by their teachers and counselors.
Not only was it fun and even hilarious at times to hear charming — and sometimes mildly alarming — anecdotes told by the people who know our kids so well, it was a strong reminder of the dedication and love that these amazing instructors, staff and admins pour into their charges throughout the students’ career at school. In some cases, these teachers have spent more time with our kids than we have ourselves in the last couple of years, and their devotion really shined through.
Sierra Tel printed a program that contains reflections by the award winners, including a “remember when,” along with a reminder of the impact of Paul and Martha Pitman on the area in general, and Yosemite High specifically.
The Pitmans were both educators in their 70s who retired in Oakhurst, but not for long, as they became involved with the effort to build the high school at a critical time in the project’s development. Martha Pitman was chair of the Citizen Committee and Paul Pitman was the education counselor for the five mountain elementary school districts. Dr. Pitman was appointed acting Superintendent for YHS through February, 1974.
The Pitmans were instrumental in moving the process along, creating a high school out of not much, at first. “Every time they suffered a defeat or setback,” reads the program, “Paul and Martha would take off for Sacramento. There they consulted with the State Department of Education, the Educational Codes, and the Legislature.”
They solicited clubs and service organizations, kept the community informed, and eventually secured a new district composed of students from the Oakhurst, Coarsegold, Raymond Knowles, Wasuma, and Bass Lake schools. In March of 1974 a majority of voters approved a combined loan and bond of $5,200,000 to make the dream of Yosemite High School a reality. The school opened its doors to around 450 students in September of 1976. On June 13, 1986, the YHS library was dedicated to Paul and Martha Pitman, and the banquet now remembers these early advocates for education every year.
Meanwhile, back on the deck at the Pines, relief was a palpable emotion throughout the dinner. The last months, or even years, have been filled with hard work, struggle and a degree of uncertainty as the path toward college was navigated by kids and parents alike. As of May 1, most students have made their choices and plans for the future and the Pitman Banquet was a chance for people to mingle, reflect and look forward joyfully, as well. It was a delightful evening that will be long-remembered by all, and our grateful thanks as parents, guardians, and community members go out to all who participated.
Congratuations, Pitman Scholars. You nailed it.