Class of 2023 graduation a bittersweet sendoff

Despite bumps in the road during the past four years, 52 seniors graduated yesterday evening at Mulholland Middle School under the warm lowering glow of the summer sun. 

While the first half of high school was interrupted for the seniors due to COVID-19 and distance learning, they were able to experience the latter half in a semi-normal way. During their senior year, many were able to attend events, field trips and even a normal graduation where they could invite up to eight people. 

“None of us are the same people we were when we embarked on our freshman year,” said valedictorian Delilah Brumer during her speech. “And how could we be? We’ve grown through a multitude of challenges and we’ve grown stronger at each turn, even if we didn’t realize it at the time.” 

At the ceremony, Brumer received the Daniel Pearl Foundation scholarship, a stipend of $2,500 for an outgoing senior who will be pursuing journalism. She was this year’s editor-in-chief of The Pearl Post magazine and will be attending Northwestern University to study journalism. 

Incoming Associated Student Body (ASB) President Maggie Simonyan served as the ceremony’s emcee, starting the event with the Pledge of Allegiance. Following this, music teacher Wes Hambright led the crowd in a passionate acapella rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner.” 

The theme uniting all songs selected by the performing student band was the step into adulthood and growing up. Songs like “The Adults Are Talking” by the Strokes, “Beat it” by Michael Jackson and “Till Forever Falls Apart” by Ashe and FINNEAS were played as a closing hymn for the seniors. 

Speaking after Brumer and a second musical performance, salutatorian Kennedy Guzman took to the stage with a speech that looked both toward the past and future. 

“To my fellow graduates I say: Let us take the lessons learned within these halls and let them guide us on our journey to success and happiness,” said Guzman, who will be attending University of California, Davis in the fall to study animal science.“Remember that we are the authors of our own stories.” 

Following Guzman, ASB President and Features Editor Angela Ledesma Grattarola stepped onto the stage to leave the students with some advice. 

“Let’s remember that our potential knows no bounds,” said Ledesma, who will be attending the University of California, Los Angeles to study pre-law.“We are equipped with the knowledge, skills and determination to conquer any challenge that comes our way.”

For a lot of the speakers, the growth they underwent during their high school years and the hope they saw for the future were the focus of their speeches. The selected student speaker Naamah Silcott focused on these topics. They also spoke of how their identity changed over the years and the people who helped them become who they are today. 

“Thank you to everyone here, staff and parents alike, for believing in us even when the going got tough,” said Silcott, who was Prestige Yearbook editor-in-chief.“You all have done so much for my journey and I could not have been more grateful for the family I was given.”

Dr. Judea Pearl was the keynote speaker for this year’s ceremony. Delivering a speech regarding the fond memory of his late wife Ruth Pearl and anecdotes about his late son’s life, the slain journalist Daniel Pearl for whom this school is named after. He also highlighted the dangers of misinformation that journalists continue to battle. At the end of his speech, he gave his well-wishes to the outgoing class of 2023. 

“As you begin your journey to dare the impossible, please remember that the impossible is just an invitation of the possible,” Pearl said. “Whatever your vocation, be it in business, science, art or law, Daniel will be there for you.

Following a final music performance, Principal Armen Petrossian ended the ceremony with a closing speech where he expressed his pride in both the individual achievements of the seniors, as well as their collective culmination. 

“Each and every one of you has made a lasting impression,” Petrossian said. “Class of 2023, here’s what I admire about you: I admire your principles and convictions. You didn’t back down.” 

Photos of the graduates receiving their diplomas will be available on The Pearl Post’s Flickr page. The ceremony was live-streamed by Pearl Net News and is available on YouTube.