Cheers and screams echoed through the massive Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels Church on Saturday morning as 72 Bellarmine-Jefferson High School graduates gathered for the last time as senior classmates.
Donning white and blue caps and gowns, the high school graduates assembled in the church hall to bid farewell to their alma mater.
"Today is another milestone — an important milestone for each and every one of you," Father John Collins told the Catholic school graduates Saturday.
"And I am sure there was a time in the last four years that today seemed like a long way off.
"Today might have even seemed like an impossibility."
Studying late nights for tests, meeting deadlines and dealing with peer pressure were likely obstacles that the graduates faced during their high school tenure, he said.
"Being a teen is a tough and challenging job," Collins said.
During the ceremony, the graduating class brought and displayed mementos, including a Bible, psychology book, candles and flowers, that represented their high school years
Attending Bell-Jeff helped graduate Vanessa Salinas, 17, learn the value of helping others also grow up, she said.
The 17-year-old plans to study child development at Cal State Northridge and become a child psychologist.
"Children are very special to me," Vanessa said. "I want to dedicate my life to them."
Valedictorian Briana Angela Escamilla said she is aiming high to reach her career goals.
The 17-year-old graduate will be attending UC Berkeley, where she plans to study political science and psychology in hopes of becoming an FBI behavioral analyst.
"I am just so excited," Briana said.
In her valedictorian address, she told fellow classmates that being a student at the high school had helped them become ambitious young adults.
"We have learned so much more than just math, science and English because Bell-Jeff has also taught us the values of integrity, honesty and respect," Briana said.
The future, she said, is in their hands.
"Each and every one of us has the ability to become the change that we want to see in this world," Briana told her classmates.