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Graduates Are in a Class by Themselves

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The 28 seniors at Fairmont High School will make history tonight: They will be the school’s first graduates.

The occasion will be both joyous and a bit sad, the seniors said, for saying goodbye to their classmates at the close-knit college-preparatory academy will not be easy.

“The most special thing about Fairmont is my friends,” said Gary Liu, 17, of Anaheim Hills, who plans to study business at UC Berkeley.

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Pradeep Prasad, 18, class president and valedictorian, is headed for USC to study medicine on a $10,000-a-year scholarship. He, too, expressed mixed feelings. “The whole senior class is really tight,” he said. “It’s going to be hard walking away from all my friends and teachers.”

Founded in Anaheim in 1953, Fairmont also operates three elementary schools and a junior high school. High school classes started in 1993 on the campus of one of the elementary schools.

School Director Trudee C. Christensen said Fairmont is a “very academic institution” that prides itself on turning out students with impressive academic backgrounds.

“We’re a thinking and writing school,” she said, adding that the school also focuses on building students’ character.

All of the graduates are college-bound and are entering a variety of schools and special programs, said Ron Woerner, school counselor.

Many have taken honors classes, advanced-placement classes or the international baccalaureate course, he said.

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Prasad said that organizing clubs at a new high school was not easy.

“But I wouldn’t be a leader today if I hadn’t gone through those two years of having to organize and start everything new,” said Prasad, who established the Student Council and Key Club, and co-wrote the school’s constitution.

In the spring of 1994, the nonsectarian school bought the former Stanton estate, a Spanish-style mansion built in 1928 by Col. Philip A. Stanton, as home of the Fairmont High Huskies. The school now has 175 students enrolled in grades 9 through 12 and expects as many as 220 next school year.

A gymnasium is being built to house physical education, drama and music classes this fall.

The students say that small class sizes and personalized instruction have enabled them to succeed.

“The environment is perfect for excelling academically,” said Danny Pittaway, 18, who was awarded a $10,000-a-year scholarship and is interested in studying traditional Chinese medicine. “They cater to the motivated student.”

Pittaway, who will attend Pitzer College and was recognized as the first graduating class’ Student of the Year, said Fairmont is like a big family. “I’m going to miss that community that has pushed me to excel.”

Graduation will be at 6 p.m. today at the Pearson Park amphitheater. --DEBRA CANO

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