Eight months ago, such a gathering of unity would have seemed improbable at Hoover High School.
However, the 90th commencement ceremonies on campus Tuesday evening showcased students from diverse backgrounds, many of the same graduates separated by an on-campus brawl on Oct. 3, reportedly fueled by ethnic tensions.
The incident, a student walkout and the eventual cancellation of a crosstown football rivalry game dating back to 1930 were not glossed over, however, or forgotten by a resilient graduating class of 307 students.
“This is just a perfect example of how students can come together after such a difficult time,” said senior Evelyn Moradian, who sat in front of a student body that resembled a garden of purple and white lilacs.
The Cal Berkeley-bound graduate was one of the leaders of the Oct. 29 walkout that included 200 students, who protested a lack of information regarding the brawl.
On Tuesday, Moradian expressed her gratitude to Hoover High principal Jennifer Earl for backing the students that day and every day since, which she believed helped the healing process.
“We came together as a class and we came over something that was just a result of so many different miscommunications, and we prospered,” Moradian said. “We’re a proud class, and we’re happy that we’re at Hoover.”
Earl quoted Nelson Mandela in a speech to graduates, stating, “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.”
Earl fought back tears when telling students, “What matters is we rise when we fall. What matters is that we do not focus on the mistakes but rather on the solutions. What matters is that we do not stay down but always rise. You did that, this [Class of] 2019, you rose about it all.”
Krikorian was elected to the school board in 2001, the year most graduates were born, and expressed a kinship with the group.
“All these kids are my kids,” he said. “I grew up with these kids, and I have a long history with them, since they’ve been in kindergarten and baseball.”
Krikorian added, “Look at the resolve. The resolve reverberates throughout our city. What we went through was a speed bump, as I look at it. We went over it and Hoover has risen above that.”
Senior Chenza Puno, who plans to attend Chaffey College in the fall, said the school’s familial ties kept the students together through rough times.
“Despite what happened from the brawl, I think we’re still a family and we all made our peace,” she said. “It’s in the past now, and it shouldn’t be in the present. We’re all celebrating now.”
Alexander Silver, who expects to study at Azusa Pacific University this fall, said he was thrilled to reach his graduation ceremony.
“It’s awesome,” Silver said. “It’s an amazing feeling, and it’s overwhelming. I’m just glad that I can spend it here at this school with these people.”