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And just like that, with the turn of a tassel, the graduating Fairfax High School (FHS) Lions were free to roam the wild.
As friends and family cheered, more than 500 students of the FHS Class of 2012 graced the stage last week, when the school held its commencement ceremonies at the University of Southern California Galen Center.
“Today begins an exciting and I hope fruitful time for you all,” Principal Robert Di Pietro said. “But it also means an end to simpler times.”
He said graduation represents a time of pain and pride, one that elicits optimism for the future but also sadness for the past. However, Di Pietro said commencement is one of the best tasks for a principal, as it creates memories for the student body.
“Memories are things we cling to in times of great stress and of great happiness,” he said.
Di Pietro also noted that the commencement ceremonies were a celebration of the friends and family who formed and nurtured the students at a young age. For those individuals, it is certainly a bittersweet time, he said.
“Your parents learned this, and now you will as well,” Di Pietro added.
Helene Galen, the wife of the late Louis Galen, also wished the Lions well in their future endeavors. Her husband, a successful businessman in the savings and loan industry, was a FHS graduate who helped build USC’s sports arena. Galen remarked on the colors of the seniors’ cap and gowns — Cardinal red and gold.
“So that makes me beam,” she said.
Galen mentioned FHS guard Brendyn Taylor, who has signed a national letter of intent to play basketball at USC. She said her late husband might have been “a bit possessed” in his love for USC sports.
“I look forward to seeing you out there,” she said.
Galen, who received a floral bouquet from the students, advised the Lions to never give up on their dreams and to give more than they receive.
“I hope you’re lucky enough get and then lucky enough to give,” she added.
Senior Gabriel “Sugar Bear” Russell addressed the students, saying that graduation is a time of excitement and relief. He said the students now must address new doubts and anxieties, while finding a “balance between ‘making it rain’ and paying the bills.”
Russell said young people today are overly ambitious, striving to make it in a society that advertises and fantasizes about diamonds and expensive cars. He said the graduating class must push those boundaries to enjoy success.
“The Class of 2012 consists of anything but ordinary people,” Russell added.
He referenced their accomplishments: completing a 26-mile marathon, winning the City Section Division II football championship in 2010 and raising $80,000 for a fellow student who became paralyzed.
“That alone exhibits an impressive amount of greatness,” Russell said. “If there’s anything to gain from this, ordinary people don’t attend Fairfax. …You are an innovator. You are a Lion. You are the walking personification of greatness.”
Senior Sehee Salisha Do spoke about the graduates’ upcoming challenges and their ability to cope with failure. She said failure will offer many lessons that they can use to grow and learn.
“Sometimes, we fail horribly, but fortunately we have enough time and energy to get over it,” Do said, adding that the Class of 2012 is talented enough and prepared for the future. “This is our time to spread our wings and soar to our new world.”
A band of seniors, The Temper Trap, performed “Sweet Disposition”. The performance included Ridwan Hakim on drums, Allan Reyes on guitar, Sae Yoon on bass and Jose Vera Cruz as the lead singer.
One student from the Fairfax Center for Visual Arts magnet, Jorge Vargas, also gave a speech. Fairfax is the only visual arts high school in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD).
Vargas posed the question: How far are you willing to travel to reach your dreams? He said the students all started with a blank canvas that is now full of color and perspective. Vargas challenged them to pursue their passions.
“Everyone, absolutely everyone, has a talent within them,” he added.
Senior Daniel Cabrera said the failures that the Class of 2012 have experienced are nothing compared to the students’ triumphs. He referenced some of their more memorable moments, such as prom and a trip to Magic Mountain.
“It’ll be the best part of the ride when you step off that stage,” Cabrera said.
LAUSD board member Steve Zimmer, 4th District, reminded the students that their journey is not theirs alone. He said their dreams are built on the foundation created for them by their families.
“You carry those dreams with you tonight as you walk across that stage,” Zimmer said, also thanking the FHS teachers and staff. “You could not have gotten here without them.”
He also praised the diversity of the graduating class. Audience members had been welcomed earlier in the event by students speaking English, Spanish, Korean, Russian and Tagolog.
“We need to make sure the walls of Congress look a lot more like Fairfax High School,” Zimmer said. “Walk in peace, Class of 2012.”
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