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RHS Graduation Fills Gymnasium
The Ray Fauria Memorial Gymnasium competed with the high school graduation ceremony itself for attention at Thursday's commencement, May 21.

Put to the big test before an overflow crowd, some residents no doubt seeing the interior for the first time, the new gymnasium came through with flying colors.

Riverbank High's Class of 2009 was small and the football field bleachers were being torn up to make room for new ones so it was only logical, perhaps inevitable, to stage the graduation ceremony indoors within the large and very new gymnasium.

For the initial indoor ceremony, probably the first of many, it turned out fine. After years of fine-tuning the event on the football field, the organizers had to find new methods and tackle fresh details. But the gymnasium provided ample and comfortable accommodations for the crowd, the audience could hear every word of the speeches and the graduates did not have to hold their caps down against the wind.

The crowd filled the gym to near capacity. Officials had allowed each graduate eight tickets for friends and family. Quite a few came without tickets but there was ample room and they were allowed in anyway shortly before the show began.

"This class can do anything they set their minds to," Riverbank High Principal Christine Facella said early on during the ceremony. "This class includes the best and brightest students in Riverbank."

Half a dozen athletes of the Bruin track and field team due to graduate barely made it back in time from the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III Meet where Bruin sprinter Donovan Wallace and others won high honors.

Salutatorian Chris Nunez came to the microphone apologizing for the bare legs beneath his gown because he hadn't had time to change clothes after the track meet, although the school had pushed back the ceremony's starting time for just such a situation. He spoke in tandem with Valedictorian Diana Olaco.

Valedictorians Steven Caton and Alejandro Contreras also took the podium together and alternated in their farewell speech.

"Thomas Edison once said "If we did all the things were are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves, " Contreras quoted.

"As the graduating class of Riverbank High, we have taken the initial steps in our lives. High school has been the place where we, the students of Riverbank High, have developed opinions, morals, friendships and talents that will serve as paradigms for our future pursuits," he added.

"On behalf of the graduation class of '09, we would like to thank our teachers, fellow students and especially our parents who have provided us with prodigious encouragement and the will to succeed," said Caton. "Even though we have all finished a phase of our life, we will all pursue different goals, different interests and different lifestyles. While our final destinations may be different, we all should strive to fulfill our future academic and personal goals."

Other student speakers included Associated Student Body President Tayler Anderson and Senior Class President Vanessa Lopez.

Student Counselor Denny Carl loaned his voice, announcing every single award and scholarship on a lengthy list. The school board trustees, Ron Peterson, Egidio Oliveira and Pamela Floyd, handled the duties of handing out all those diplomas ... and did it with a smile.