After nearly three years of incomplete or severely interrupted in-person education due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all three high schools in the Woodland Joint Unified School District breathed a sigh of relief as they capped off a normal school year by honoring the class of 2022 with graduation ceremonies.
Kicking off the weekend were Cache Creek and Pioneer High Schools, both of which held their events on Friday.
While Cache Creek enjoyed the comforts of an indoor ceremony Friday afternoon in the Pioneer High School gym, where they honored 78 graduates, Pioneer high grads and their families had to tolerate and brave through the scorching heat a few hours later out on the campus’s football feild .
Initially scheduled for 6:30 pm, the Pioneer ceremony was pushed back an hour to help make it more bearable under the sun. While the waiting heat undoubtedly annoyed some, a little sweat was a mild price to pay for the first normal school year and graduation ceremony since the 2019-20 school year.
“I am so excited that the kids finally have a normal graduation ceremony with as many guests as they would like to attend,” Pioneer High School principal Sandra Reese said. “I’m very happy that they get this last time together after such adversity.”
After leading the stadium through the Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem, Reese and Woodland Superintendent Elodia-Ortega Lampkin took the stage for some words.
Following Ortega-Lampkin, co-valedictorians Andreas Olvera and Ayantu Tamene gave out their speeches.
After a few more speakers and an emotional speech from faculty speaker Brian Hofland, Reese and Woodland School Board President Jake Whitaker certified the class of 2022 and began the class roll call.
Shawn Murray and Ethan Wilde were recent graduates from Vacaville who came to see their long-time friend Dominic Muñoz graduate from Pioneer High School.
“He actually doesn’t know we’re here, and we’re here with a bunch of friends,” Murray emphasized. “He used to live in Vacaville, and he moved away in seventh grade, and since then, we’ve just kept in touch over discord and just playing games and stuff.”
The two friends said it felt great graduating last week, and they’re happy to see a close friend do the same after the COVID-19 pandemic led many of their friends who graduated before them to not have celebrations.
“I didn’t get to go to some of my friends’ graduations during the pandemic because they graduated before me, but now that I get to go to somebody’s graduation, it feels better,” Wilde stressed.
Saturday morning was Woodland High School’s turn to send off their 2022 grads. While the sun played a role, cooling stations and a 9 am start eased the conditions for everyone as they made their way to their seats on the football feild.
Hoetzell Corona — a 30-year-long Woodland resident — attended the Woodland High School graduation to see his eldest daughter, Anagabriela Corona, graduate.
“This is the happiest and most special day for me,” Corona said in Spanish. “My daughter’s done with school and moving on to bigger things, and we’re doing our best as her parents so that she can keep advancing.”
Corona explained that Anagabriela is the oldest of his two daughters and that he hopes that his youngest follows in her footsteps.
Woodland High Principal Peter Lambert began the Woodland Ceremony by introducing everyone and himself.
After the Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem, co-valedictorians Guadalupe Cordova and Paulina Garcia were recognized.
Following a few more speakers, including student speaker Connor Green, ASB President Meliani Robinson, senior class President Xitlali Mejia, faculty member Javier Marin, and a performance by Avalon Carlson, Whitaker and Lambert certified the class of 2022.
“This is the best part of being a trustee,” Whitaker said. “It’s all worth it because we get to do this. It’s the culmination of all work that all the kids put together. I think seeing the challenges that these students have overcome gives me hope. These kids will be our future leaders and be an integral part of making a better future for all of us.”