About 344 Los Altos seniors marched up into the bleachers lining the east side of Tom Burt Field and the encircling Leo Long Track at about 6:15 p.m. on June 3, to bid farewell to their alma mater, as family and friends looked on.
"High school wasn't a perfect experience for all of us," said Erika Schonher, graduating senior and mistress of ceremonies. She surmised that many in her graduating class had suffered from "broken bones, broken hearts" or "broken dreams" — maybe even all three — during their four years in high school.
And yet, even though some of her painful experiences may still sting, Schonher remained positive about moving forward. "Embarrassment," she said, "is nothing but the beginning of a funny story."
Principal Wynne Satterwhite kicked off the ceremony with a speech recalling the very first Harry Potter book, published back in June of 1997, when most in the class of 2011 were on cusp of entering kindergarten. With the final movie being released in July, the series of fantasy books and films fits almost perfectly over the graduating class' time in elementary, middle and high school. Satterwhite thought it fitting to reflect on a few of her favorite passages from the novels, which follow a group of budding sorcerers learning the ins and outs of hocus-pocus during their formative years at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
"We don't study magic here," Satterwhite acknowledged. Even so, the material she quoted from J.K. Rowling's books was no less poignant.
Moving through a series of quotes — "It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies, but it takes a great deal more to stand up to your friends," and, "It does not do well to dwell on the dreams of others" — Satterwhite told the class that they will face many hard choices down the road, but that they should not let the fear of making a wrong choice prevent them from moving forward with purpose. "Select wisely," she said, "but select."
"It is not our abilities that show who we truly are," Satterwhite quoted Rowling, "It is our choices."
Just as Harry Potter lived for 11 years in a world completely unlike that which he would enter upon his admittance to Hogwarts, senior speaker Yareli Flores, though born in America, lived in Mexico and began her freshman year at Los Altos speaking no English.
Flores credited her family and her teachers — whom she referred to as her "second family" — pushing her to do her best. Like Harry Potter, Flores excelled at her studies and she is headed to college.
Another student speaker, Carolyn Yang, thanked her parents and her teachers for guiding her through four years of learning and self discovery. Yang said she would surely feel a bit sad leaving her hometown behind to go off to college, but, like Schonher, her enthusiasm for her next stage in life was palpable:
"We will take the world by storm, class of 2011!"
Satterwhite shared the graduates' excitement.
"It has been a pleasure to work with this class," she said. "Class of 2011, you are truly magical!"