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Schools Cap COVID Year With Outdoor Graduations
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Graduating members of Riverbank High School line up to hear their name called, many offering a fist bump to school board members and other administrators, in lieu of a handshake. And some showed off their prized diploma as they walked past, probably with thoughts of ‘I made it!’ Ric McGinnis/The News

Finals are finally over and the Riverbank Unified School District celebrated the end of the school year last week, hosting four graduation ceremonies in two days.

Wednesday, May 26, saw commencements of Adelante High School students, those at Riverbank Language Academy, as well as Cardozo Middle School.

Both Adelante and CMS held their ceremonies on the Riverbank High campus. Adelante graduates marched processional and recessional on the stage in the quad in the middle of the campus. Shortly after, CMS parents and students flooded the Angelo Novi Stadium for their graduation.

In between, RLA students graduated.

The stadium was a repeat the next evening, Thursday, May 27, when the high school crowded more parents — and more students — into the grandstand and onto the field. Social distancing protocols were still observed.

Parents got the more comfortable folding chairs but had to look west, into the setting sun, to see their soon-to-be graduates. Some friends and family waited patiently in the parking lot, outside the stadium and the gym, while others crowded the fence line across the stadium, next to the visitor’s bleachers if they were not able to get inside the stadium. Once the actual names of graduates were being read, car and truck horns could be heard, as well as other kinds of percussion instruments.

When the audience was settled, the processional was led by teachers, also in their gowns. They lined the top row of the grandstand, then the seniors came in, single file. Prior to this beginning, the students lined the outside of the fence around the south end of the track, reaching all the way over to the bleachers of the visiting teams.

The event was hosted by Principal Greg Diaz, with Jacqueline Calderon-Ruiz, Student Body President, leading the flag salute, followed by the National Anthem.

Diaz then made a welcome address to the group, both students and audience. That was followed by announcements of various senior awards and scholarships.

In a normal year, the awards would be presented at a special assembly, with individual recognition. Since those kind of gatherings were not allowed this year, the seniors receiving this recognition were called upon to stand in place for group appreciation, by Counselors Maritza Alvarez and Mark Hernandez. The awards were listed in the program.

Next up was Valedictorian Yara Choeb, then Salutatorian Mariacarmen Jacobo. They spoke of what it meant to be able to actually complete their course work, despite difficult circumstances, and how they both appreciated the ability to return to onsite classes and their friends, on campus.

Principal Diaz presented the assembled class members for graduation, then Superintendent Christine Facella accepted the class, on behalf of the School District.

As she took the podium, she mentioned to the seniors several examples of things that seemed important at their times in history, but have fallen by the wayside by now. The presentation of diplomas followed, with Diaz and Facella assisted by Elizabeth Meza, president of the district Board of Trustees, and members Ernest Velasco, Ana Vigil, Susan Taylor and Diana Gonzalez.

After a few closing remarks by Diaz, the recessional sounded, the students filed out, and their families met up with them in the parking lot.


Adelante Moves Forward

The venue may have changed slightly this year, but the in-person graduation ceremony for Adelante Continuation High School (AHS) returned for the Class of 2021. This year’s graduation was held in the quad on the Riverbank High School campus.

Graduates were limited to only two guests per student. There were over 30 students that graduated in the Class of 2021. AHS Principal Ed Vaca welcomed everyone to the graduation on Wednesday, May 26.

The Pledge of Allegiance was presented by the Salutatorian Isabella Jorgensen. The AHS Valedictorian was Keisha Gonzalez Ortiz.

AHS Teacher Bryan Markum addressed the guests.

Vaca presented the class and District Superintendent Facella accepted the graduates. Ortiz led the moving of the tassels and the graduates made their way across the stage and received their diplomas.


News reporter Virginia Still contributed to this story.

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Students at Adelante High School exchange fist bumps with board members during graduation exercises held at the quad on the RHS campus last Wednesday. With COVID distancing policies in effect, participants sought other means, besides the traditional handshake, to express their appreciation. Ric McGinnis/The News