OAKHURST — Rousing cheers, thunderous foot-stomping and non-stop applause accompanied the Class of 2016 as they entered the gym for their last rally as students at Yosemite High School today.
Displaying typical pride as this Year of Living Badgerously comes to a close, the senior class stormed, skipped, ran and leapt across the floor in a blue parade of bright possibility, many perched on the shoulders of life-long friends they’ve made at YHS.
They took their seats in the bleachers, occupying their sacred space with a nearly continual chant of “sen-IORS, sen-IORS!” until ASB teacher and events coordinator Tammy Thacker stilled the room of wild Badgers.
Color Guard presented flags and the Chamber Singers treated the audience to a sweetly stirring rendition of the national anthem.
Principal Randy Seals welcomed the room of enthusiasts and introduced a representative of the alumni association who offered a special presentation to beloved teacher and mentor Ellen Peterson, who will walk with the class of ’16 when they graduate and she retires on Wednesday, Jun. 8.
Earlier, the woman fondly referred to as “Mrs. P” had given each and every member of the senior class a bright blue t-shirt with a special inscription, front and back. “Within me beats the heart of a Badger,” says one side. Walking away it reads, “Nothing stops a badger.”
Mrs. Peterson was alternately referred to as “outstanding,” and “the smiliest, most enthusiastic and optimistic person ever.” At several points throughout the rally the common chant of “sen-IORS, sen-IORS” gave way to a chorus of “MRS. P! MRS. P!” Already the emotional temperature of the room was rising, and this was just the beginning.
Principal Seals says he had a tough time knowing just what to say to summarize the effect that Mrs. Peterson has had on the school and its generations of students under her watch.
When the time came to announce her as YHS Teacher of the Year, he focused on the profound fact that Mrs. P has been there since the beginning, has been the glue that holds the school together, and has always valued relationships over curriculum — and relationships over anything, for that matter.
The students know this and their response drowned out anything further the principal had to add as the retiring teacher was overcome with emotion, and almost overwhelmed by students who instinctually rushed her for hugs before they were herded back to their seats. As always, Mrs. P was gracious and humble, and super smiley.
It was a day to make note of the accomplishments and milestones of many, including teachers, staff, and students.
Principal Seals honored the school’s dynamic long-time librarian, Janell Balaguy, who retires next week after 30 years. Kellie McConnell was called out as Staff member of the year for her consistent, efficient and compassionate running of the school’s front office. Francisco Marquez accepted a plaque as Club of the Year was designated: Band.
Early on, Yosemite District board member Monika Moulin recognized the indomitable Rose Curley with the YUSD Certificate of Merit for being the student representative at the school board meetings. Spoiler alert: Curley later was awarded Senior of the Year, which comes with a $500 Target gift card. For the duration, department heads, teachers and admin continued to award deserving seniors with special certificates, as their classmates and the entire school cheered them on. A complete list of award winners appears below, however, the day serves as another chance to highlight the remarkable spirit of excited engagement that seems to run through the school.
At this final rally, Principal Seals noted that he’d challenged all students at the very first rally last August to put forth their best effort every day, to make a step forward every day and continue that process as progress was made, and to live Badgerously. Seals states today that students have exceeded all expectations.
Soon after awards wrapped up, it was time for Mrs. Thacker to call the seniors away from the bleachers and invite them down onto the the floor, where they got comfortable with the best seats in the house, to view the year-end video.
Once they were positioned, she asked the juniors — known as the Class of 17 — to leave their “junior” space in the bleachers and proudly begin their occupation of the “senior” space, as the cycle begins anew.
While I was called to bear witness to these rare and wonderous proceedings as a member of the press, it’s time to note once again that I am also a parent and our daughter Clara was present today and a recipient of honor, as well.
Many of these kids have been to our home, and it’s been a privilege of my own to watch them grow up, to rise up and enter the adult world. My notes were scribbled through tears, so if I left anyone out please forgive me and let me know!
In the meantime, congratulations to:
Student of the Year – Rose Curley
Auto Mechanics – Erik Johnson
Auto Mechanics – Cole Melanson
Agriculture – Helena Johnson Lusk
Criminal Justice – Michael Silva
Welding – Alexander Dedekian
Digital Film – Austin Gari
Family & Consumer Studies – Ciara Wilkeyson
Theater Arts – Gianna DeFelice
Instrumental Music – Allie Donnell
Chamber Singers – Hailey Contreras
Art – Mia Bullock
Foreign Language – Clara Briley
Foreign Language – Wyatt Leaf
Mathematics – Clara Briley
Mathematics – Rose Curley
Mathematics – Allie Donnell
Mathematics – Bella Flaherty
Mathematics – Brendan Rhoan
English – Allie Donnell
Cadet Corps – Nathanial Schlepp
Cadet Corps – Ashlee Harrell
Physical Sciences and Robotics – Tanner Meeks
Physical Sciences and Robotics – Andrew Volpetti
Biology – Quentin Lawrence
Biology – Clara Briley
Psychology – Mia Bullock
History – Kevin Kirk
Senior Athlete of the Year – Katie Whitcomb
Senior Athlete of the Year – Trevor Wood
Senior Scholar Athlete of the Year – Rose Curley
Senior Scholar Athlete of the Year – Travis Wood
IB Student of the Year – Clara Briley