Burbank High School: 'This is it' for 670 students

Burbank Leader

Ani Vertanous and Sabina Agazarian said they've been friends since middle school, but walking up the hill to the Starlight Bowl for their Burbank High School commencement Friday, they started yelling.

They weren't going to be sitting next to one another for the ceremony, but they said that didn't take away from their sense of accomplishment, relief and joy.

"It feels amazing," Vertanous said. "It's the end, and I accomplished everything."

The two will be going to Pasadena City College next year, representing two stories among the almost 670 graduating seniors who became alumni Friday night.

"Senior year was the best year," said Tyler Wells, who'll be enrolling at Glendale Community College.

His family flew in from the Bay Area. For his mother, Fran Wells, reflecting on her son's accomplishments and growth in the last four years almost made her cry, she said.

"I'm so proud and excited for him," she said. "And he's going to be around, and we're happy to have him."

While Tyler Wells will be in the neighborhood next year, the commencement theme "This Is It" rang true for many others who'll be moving far from home, like Aaron Frank.

"In ninth grade we had a speaker who said, 'No regrets,'" said the incoming Syracuse University freshman. "I pushed myself and made sure I never regretted any decisions I make."

Same with Sophie Irwin, who'll be going to college in Alabama. Her father, Steve, said he's gotten accustomed to not seeing Sophie much.

"This year, we barely saw her," he said. "She'll be back on major holidays. We have a small house, the extra elbow room might be nice."

Baseball teammates Sam Levitt and Lonnie Kauppila said that with several graduating seniors, the lineup is likely to enter a rebuilding phase. Kauppila will be playing baseball at Stanford University next year, while Levitt enrolls at UCLA.

"I'll see him when he's in town [playing UCLA]," Levitt said. "It hasn't hit me yet. I'm looking forward to the future, but I'm trying to remember everything that happened during high school."

Clad in blue caps and gowns, students milled around the grass behind the bowl's seats, taking pictures and celebrating their final moments in Burbank Unified.

"They are so close with one another and friendly, and just really nice kids," said Carolyn Grogan, an English teacher.

For Daniel Flores, one of the student speakers, it was a moment he wasn't sure he'd see.

Freshman year was his low point, he said. The next year, he transferred to Monterrey High School, made up 127 credits and returned to Burbank High, giving up horseplay for career goals.

"The message is, no matter who you are or what you want to do, you can do it," he said. "This is a very special moment for me right now."

That's what "This Is It" was all about, said Mary Beth Medina, the school's student board member and a graduation speaker.

"This expression depends on every senior here," she said in her address. "It's not what you say, it's about what you do . . . We made it through. Now, welcome to your future."

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