Brett Rackie found his niche quickly.
He moved to town from Pittsburgh as a sophomore, knowing no one and enrolling at Burroughs High School. He joined the baseball team and made friends.
On Thursday, he stood in the hallway of his soon-to-be alma mater, adorned with academic achievement pins, and honor chords all while hugging and high-fiving friends.
“High school couldn’t have been better,” he said. “But I am looking forward to a new start.”
Rackie’s story was among the successes of the roughly 600 students who, with a shift of their tassels, became alumnae Thursday night.
“This was an amazing class,” said Jodi Levy, a guidance counselor. “They did what they needed to do and did it in a fantastic way.”
The Class of 2010 had a reputation as a smart bunch beginning in their sophomore year, history teacher Justin Lee said.
“They scored really well on their California state tests,” he said. “A lot of them [will] keep in touch and come back and visit.”
Aside from their academic achievements, students were more reflective on their journey to commencement. Many said they felt more responsible and independent, others said they will never forget Burroughs High and the roots and wings they grew while students here.
“It’s a great place to grow up, and I’ll definitely miss it,” said Troy Chang, who with his brother Winston, were co-valedictorians and will move to Palo Alto next year to begin studying at Stanford University. “I’ve become more confident in myself and my abilities, especially with speaking.”
And it showed as he invoked Winston Churchill in an address and a reminder to his classmates that they have the power to change lives.
“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give,” he quoted Churchill, before adding his own spin. “Each of us has the ability to define the lives of others. Only with the awareness of this gift can we be great.”
School officials were prepared to postpone commencement as overcast skies and a small chance of rain threatened the outdoor ceremony. As students collected their diplomas, the sun shone a bright golden brown across Memorial Field.
“I am so proud of her,” Chris Rountree said of his daughter, Daria. “I didn’t like school, but she loved it.”
Chris Rountree dropped out of high school in 10th grade, he said, but Daria earned a speaking role at commencement, framing high school as a four-act play.
“As William Shakespeare said, the world is a stage,” Daria Rountree said. “Our play is coming to its last pages. It might be the end of this play, but we are starting a new play called life.”
With Sarah Meadows graduation, her father Marvin Meadows will soon have an empty nest. This is his last graduation, but he wasn’t worried about his children leaving home for too long.
“Are you kidding? Her and her brother will never leave the house,” he said laughing. “She’s a good girl, [and] she had a great time.”
Graduates Lorena Garcia and Gissel Arias had their minds on the all-night party at Disneyland.
“It feels great,” Garcia said. “It feels like we accomplished something big.”