Four years ago, Bethel High School's Class of 2012 was made up of scared freshmen worried about being stuffed in lockers, Freshman Fridays and food fights, said senior class president Madelynn Poulson.
Now they are seasoned seniors who know there was no reason to be afraid, she told 429 of her peers as they prepared to graduate Friday night.
Poulson delivered a graduation speech devoid of clichés and brimming with shout outs to classmates and teachers. She thanked them for hugs, handwritten notes, smiles and sports victories.
When life gets tough, she said, think back to when the only reason you made a fist was to pound it on the table as your friends rapped, and the only time you yelled was to get someone's attention in the parking lot. Remembering the good times can't help but make the bad times a little better, she said.
Salutatorian Amber Gonzalez reminded her peers that life is fleeting, so cherish each moment instead of hurrying to move through life.
Valedictorian Johnafaye Mariano told her peers that humility, intelligence, perseverance and audacity are the keys to success.
"We are the masters of our own futures," she said. "We are the future of America."
Principal John Bailey told students that as they deal with a tough job market and ever-rising college costs to always be grateful for the little things.
"Don't use gratitude sparingly," he said. "Never give up on your dreams. Follow your passion. You will always be part of our (Bethel) Bruin history.
Total enrollment: 1,739
Class of 2012: 430
Speakers: Principal John Bailey, Senior Class President Madelynn Poulson, Valedictorian Johnafaye Mariano; Salutatorian Amber Gonzalez
Fast fact: Graduates were offered more than $11 million in scholarshipsCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times