Glendale High School graduates walked off the stage with their diplomas, carrying messages of kindness and compassion into the next chapter of their lives.
Surrounded by loved ones and donning red and black robes, the students smiled, laughed and cheered during the ceremony Wednesday evening. They listened to the school’s a capella choir sing “Don’t Stop Believing’” followed by speeches from the school’s class president, valedictorians and principal.
Student body president Ani Ordubekyan opened the ceremony with her speech, urging classmates to take risks as they move forward in their lives. She reminisced about the growth she experienced at Glendale High, evolving from a timid freshman to a leader her senior year.
“Find something you’re passionate about and pursue it wholeheartedly,” she told her fellow graduates.
Glendale High School’s co-valedictorians Moira Mailed and Eliza Petrosyan were then introduced. Both young women earned a 4.5 grade-point average.
In their speeches, the high-achieving students acknowledged their friendly rivalry. They teased and honored one another by reading aloud each other’s accomplishments in academics, sports and extracurricular activities.
“When I found out Moira was co-valedictorian, people asked me if Moira and I have drama,” Eliza said. “We competed at everything we ever did.”
But though Mailed is slightly taller, Petrosyan’s grade-point average was .0014 points higher than Mailed’s, she pointed out playfully.
“It’s an honor to share this stage with Moira,” she continued before reassuring her classmates that “GPA does not matter. It does not measure intelligence … and it definitely doesn’t pay the bills.”
To her classmates’ amusement, Petrosyan quoted celebrity chef Guy Fieri: “Cooking is like snow skiing — if you don’t fall at least 10 times, then you’re not skiing hard enough.”
And life, she added, is also like cooking, which is like snow skiing. The crowd laughed and applauded.
After the co-valedictorians left the stage, Glendale High School principal Benjamin Wolf gave closing remarks and last words of advice to the graduates. Whereas in the past 15 years of speaking in graduation ceremonies, he has merely given different iterations of quotes and advice from history’s leaders, this year he couldn’t leave the ceremony without addressing the political divide in the country today, he said.
Wolf acknowledged the many impressive paths students were pursuing, such as careers in medicine or engineering. But he said they must take on those roles in a different way — metaphorical doctors to heal the wounds of friends and family in difficult times and metaphorical engineers to build bridges between divided communities.
“This is not about taking sides,” he said. “We’re so stuck in seeing the world through two lenses, we have become so blinded that we no longer debate issues.”
He went on to quote another popular culture figure — Yoda.
“Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate and hate leads to suffering,” he said.
The energy among graduates before the ceremony was mixed with nervousness and excitement. Several students said the experience of graduating may be one of the most challenging and bittersweet of their four-year journey.
“I’m really excited,” said Larrenz Carino, 18, who is expected to attend UC Irvine, to study computer engineering in the fall. “I’m also nervous … but I know God is with me, so I’m not really that scared.”
He said he is walking away from Glendale High with many valuable memories and lifelong friendships.