Recognizing a year of "seismic changes," Mountain View High School class president Joshua Lillie had three words to describe his graduating peers: "Togetherness, grit and passion."
"We have studied together, competed together, performed together, served the community together, even Zoomed together," Lillie said at the June 4 commencement ceremony. "And through it all, we have stayed together — a true testament to the closeness of this class."
On a Friday evening, right after the Los Altos High School graduation ceremony, 464 seniors from Mountain View High School's class of 2021 walked the soccer field of PayPal Park to commemorate the historic occasion of graduating after more than a year of the pandemic.
In her speech "One Degree Hotter," Daniela Shaprio Ortiz de Zarate pointed both to some of the frivolous outcomes of the lockdowns, like learning TikTok dances and having toilet paper run out in stores, as well as the more profound losses and turmoil of the past year.
"We have faced countless academic, extracurricular and personal losses," she said. "We've witnessed systemic racial injustice and violence plague our country. Political chaos has surrounded us. We even watched our own communities burn down."
Enola Talbert acknowledged in her speech that, despite the differences that exist among her peers, her class has the capability to unite and "take pretty good care of each other."
"For the most part, I believe that we're a pretty tight community when we need to be," said Talbert, who signed off her speech with "Black lives matter" and wishing people a happy Pride Month.
Ava Kopp, the Associated Student Body president, likened the past four years and the future that lies ahead for her class to the 1872 Challenger expedition, which led to many discoveries for the field of oceanography. And in the adventure that lies ahead, Kopp said that her class is united by the responsibility to help the unheard and unseen.
"Our duty is to finish the work that's not so pretty," she said. "To extend a hand those who exist in invisibility."
The graduation ceremony was also the first time school principal Michael Jimenez addressed the class of 2021 in person since he joined the administration last July. In his speech, Jimenez acknowledged the staff, faculty and students for their resiliency in the past year.
"Distance learning is no easy feat to work through," he said. "Zooming for the entire day only to have to stay focused on your computer at the end of the day to research and complete homework. ...You continued to put your nose to the grindstone, you worked hard and you continued to strive in class in order to get the grades you worked so hard for and deserve — all this during a pandemic that you were forced to persevere."
Parents appeared ecstatic to see their students have an in-person ceremony.
For Jill Strode, everything from the large stadium to the caps and gowns was a new, exciting sight to her. Strode went to school in England where high school students don't graduate in such fashion.
"We didn't have a big celebration like this," said Strode, who came to watch her first son, Matthew, graduate. "We don't have the cap and gowns for high school, so it's very different — a little overwhelming."
Anna Campisi said she was ecstatic to be able to watch her daughter Carolyn graduate, especially since she didn't expect the class of 2021 to have a ceremony in person.
"I thought we were gonna have another shutdown," she said.
Though a few traditions and the look of Mountain View High School's graduation were adjusted for the venue, graduates were still able to gather together underneath the large digital scoreboard for the culminating hat toss at the end of the ceremony.