The graduation ceremony Friday in the St. Bernard’s Catholic Church Holy Family Center, 12100 Valpico Road, was unique because the majority of the graduates had been classmates since they first entered elementary school on the Tracy Learning Center campus.
“It’s bittersweet,” graduate Valerie Amador said with tears in her eyes. “It’s sad to leave my best friends. I’ve been with them since the fifth grade. I’m going to stay in touch with my closest friends, but others I won’t ever see again.”
Graduate Manjot Atwal said he was excited but sad to say goodbye to the people he grew up with. Classmate Ericka Dominguez said the Millennium campus was like a family to them.
As the traditional tune of “Pomp and Circumstance” filled the air, the Class of 2014 marched into the Holy Family Center and hundreds of onlookers erupted into applause and cheers.
Before the presentation of diplomas, graduate Lauren Louis sang the national anthem. Louis also shared student-speaker honors with fellow graduate Ismaeel Siddiqui.
Siddiqui told his classmates that high school would prove to have been the easiest part of their lives. He said they were moving on to better things as they all flew from their family nest to face the next chapter in their lives.
He spoke of the accomplishments of the Falcons athletic programs, of the teachers who had inspired the class and of how they had become role models in the Tracy community as they performed hundreds of hours of community service.
“We shall always remember Millennium in the years to come,” Siddiqui said.
Sean Santos, who read a spoken-word piece, urged classmates to “keep going, keep pushing and keep learning.” He said they needed to keep exploring and promised that they would be surprised by what the world had to offer them.
Giving the staff address, teacher Seth Lee told the graduates they were starting a new adventure in their lives. He said that as some enter college, they will encounter schools with individual buildings larger than the entire TLC campus. He advised them to get involved, set priorities and always know that the staff of Millennium would be there for them.
In her speech, TLC director Virginia Stewart highlighted the accomplishments of the Class of 2014 as the seventh class to graduate from the charter school. She said the group always took the road less traveled and succeeded, with 104 starting as freshmen and 104 graduating.
She said 42 percent of the graduates took college courses and were accepted into four-year colleges, and 10 graduates completed spring internships and were offered jobs.
“We don’t let people fail here,” Stewart said.
When it was time to get their diplomas, students took turns walking across the stage. Some celebrated with a dance or by raising their arms in victory, but the crowd erupted when Siddiqui did his signature martial arts kick in the middle of the stage in response to a chant of “kick, kick” from his classmates.
Once all of the names were called, the graduates turned to face the audience and moved their cap tassels to signify that they were graduates of the Class of 2014, sending the crowd of onlookers into a screaming frenzy.
As graduates were met with hugs and gifts from family and friends in the Holy Family Center lobby, many said they were happy and sad about leaving Millennium behind them.
“I’m nervous, but excited,” Emilen Santos said. “I’m glad it’s over, but it’s too early to grow up. Time went by fast.”
Jude Ocampo said with a broad smile, “It feels great. It feels like all the hard work paid off.”
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