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Cheers and kazoos mark Burroughs commencement

It wouldn’t have been a John Burroughs High School graduation without a bit of musical theater, and there was plenty of that on Thursday at the Starlight Bowl as members of the class of 2011 lined up to accept their diplomas.

A vocal performance of “Feeling Good” by the school’s celebrated choir was followed by a kazoo-accompanied rendition of Journey’s rock anthem, “Don’t Stop Believing,” that quickly evolved into an audience sing-a-long.

The amphitheater — Burroughs Memorial Field, the school’s traditional commencement setting, currently is under construction — proved an apt setting for the wave, which flowed through the 603 graduates several times.

“I am ecstatic,” said graduate Lauren Hernandez as she lined up with her classmates. “I can’t wait to see all my friends walk the stage. [Senior year] was so fun and it went by so fast. I don’t regret anything. It was an amazing year and I can’t wait for the rest of my life.”


Others said the evening was tinged with sadness.

“It is bittersweet because we are not going to see the same people any more,” said Da’Mond Wilson. “Everyone is going to change after high school and do their own thing.”

Student speakers opined on their school life, kindergarten through senior year.

“When we finally arrived at Burroughs, a whole new world opened up for us,” said Ashley Farmer, who delivered the reminiscence speech. “We had access to so many amazing things, like fun electives that we actually wanted to take, watching or participating in varsity sports, and the one thing many of us could not live without: lunch passes.”


Senior-year highlights included the Burroughs football team’s last-minute win over crosstown rival Burbank during the homecoming game, said Farmer to much applause.

Perhaps the most colorful comments of the evening came from valedictorian Alexander Martinez who — in a speech that left the audience in stitches and administrators with pursed lips — referenced bacteria, emoticons and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s illegitimate child.

He was lost when he arrived at Burroughs High as a freshman, Martinez said.

“I felt out of place at first, but that soon changed,” Martinez said. “Maybe it’s because like the E. Coli on [fast-food] lettuce, Burroughs grows on you.”

The school provided him and his classmates a place to grow personally and academically, he said.

“I’ll just say, using the abbreviated jargon of our generation, JBHS = :),” Martinez said. “Put a space in between the colon and the parenthesis to make a better smiley face, but do so at your discretion, it is a bit time consuming.”

On a more serious note, he urged his classmates not to mistake schooling for learning, and encouraged them to meet their social responsibilities head on.

“We don’t have to be saints, martyrs or heroes, but we shouldn’t let the difficulty of upholding ethical and moral responsibilities stop us from becoming the men and women we can and should be,” Martinez said.