The class was a collection of students from city schools such as Tracy, West and Delta Charter highs. They brought with them different stories, attitudes and ideas that were all shaped by the respective schools they had come from.
Now, as that group — officially counted at 323 students — prepares to walk across the stage as Kimball High’s first graduating class during ceremonies at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, June 2, at the school, they all leave as Jaguars sharing a unified story.
The school’s first valedictorian and salutatorian are no different, each having forged her own path to claim the top academic honors.
Jochebed Ramat, 18, said she modestly deflected chatter for weeks before officially hearing at senior awards night that she was the top student in her class. She graduates with a 4.63 GPA.
“It was between me and a couple other people, but it was just us three that really talked about it,” she said. “I tried not to think about anything, you know — just worry about my work and trying to finish. But when I got it, you know, it feels really good, because I was able to graduate with the accomplishment.”
Fellow student Rebekah Smith said she arrived at the senior banquet ready to accept a class award. However, the 17-year-old salutatorian got a much bigger surprise that night.
“I was shocked; I thought I heard my name wrong when they called it out,” she said. “I thought I was there for an award I had gotten, and then they announced that I was salutatorian.”
Though the two students’ paths to graduation are different, they are also parallel. Each began high school at West High, and each has developed the perseverance and work ethic to be successful in high school. Now, both will strive to write new chapters in their stories as they enter college.
Smith, who graduates with 4.4 GPA, plans to attend Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, this fall, where she hopes to major in either law or editing and minor in psychology. She said she has one simple goal in her chosen career path, which is as yet undecided.
“I just know I want to be useful in whatever I do,” she said. “There are so many people that need help, and I want to put myself in a position to help.”
As a high school senior, Smith said she adhered to a strict routine of completing homework before having fun. She credits a reading from her senior elective leadership class with helping her uncover her own story.
“I’ve learned that we had a purpose in the story, you know, for all the activities we do in class,” she said. “It’s kind of something you need to do throughout your life; you need to find out the story you want and you need to find out how to write it.”
Ramat will attend University of California, Los Angeles, where she wants to major in molecular biology and study business as a minor. She hopes to open a clinic that supports uninsured or underinsured people.
She credits her success to her parents’ willingness to “just let me learn on my own.”
“They never helped me; they just gave me advice,” Ramat said. “Since second grade, I stopped asking my parents for help on my homework, and after that, I kind of took what I learned in class and applied it at home, and then it helped. They are there for support; they just want to do all the work for me.”
That independence, she said, “helped me learned how to figure out what I need to do and plan things ahead, instead of just waiting for the last minute.”
Each student spoke highly of her classmates, mentioning that the seniors became role models to younger students and in the broader community.
“One thing that’s different, and I don’t know why it’s like this at our school, but our school has been a bigger community and more knit together than other schools,” Smith said. “I never felt like there was a distinction, where seniors picked on freshmen. I like that it’s one big camaraderie of students.”
Ramat said that when she arrived at Kimball as a sophomore, she was “worried that there was going to be no one to look up to and no new traditions.”
Three years later, the senior leaves with a sense of pride in her classmates.
“I’m just kind of proud of this whole culmination of high schools making up one sort of big one,” she said. “We came together and made one story.”
Principal Cheryl Domenichelli said this year’s senior class set a “solid foundation and great example” for graduating classes that follow.
“What is really nice about these guys is they are very proud of their school, and that’s a lot, because they came from other schools,” she said. “What is really amazing about this particular group of students is that they have never taken advantage of the fact that they were the oldest on campus and gone in the wrong direction. I have seen that in other schools, when the first class came in and had no role models, can go awry — and these guys didn’t do that.”
Due to seating availability, eight tickets were issued to each graduating senior. Only ticketholders will be admitted to the ceremony at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the school.