'Panther Strong' students 'Begin the Tradition'

tmiller@losbanosenterprise.comJune 11, 2013 

Emotions ran high during Pacheco High School’s first-ever commencement ceremony last week.

Open since 2010, Pacheco High’s first senior class finished its run in purple robes and mortarboards on Friday.

There were some tears, many cheers and an appearance by Principal Brett Lee, who stepped away from the office in January after being diagnosed with an undisclosed type of cancer.

“The world that you are about to enter is not as kind, as tender and as warm as it would have you believe,” Lee said, speaking to graduates. “For that reason, I tell you that you must never, ever give up on yourself no matter what comes.”

About 290 graduating seniors covered the Veterans Memorial Stadium field, while friends and family filled the homefield stands behind them.

Lee led the seniors in a chant of “Panther Strong,” a phrase that made it into almost every speech given that evening.

Along with orations from the valedictorian and salutatorian, students heard from ‘Inspirational Speech’ winner Emily Spain, whose speech was culled from a number of others.

“ ‘Panther Strong’ means every panther coming together, not as a school but as a family,” she said. “Not just to fight cancer but to fight every obstacle we come across.”

Twenty-six students graduated with honors, and 21 scholarships worth $39,750 were awarded to students in Pacheco High’s first graduating class.

Teacher Gary Bettencourt read the speech from valedictorian Janet Reynoso, who was attending her brother’s Massachusetts Institute of Technology ceremony. The speech referenced an oft said phrase on campus, “Begin the Tradition.”

“I’ve come to realize the tradition of the graduating class of 2013 is to make their own path,” Bettencourt said, reading from the speech.

The outgoing senior class president also passed a student-made torch to next year’s class president during the commencement, a tradition developed by students.

Pacheco High was built in part using dollars from the $44 million Measure K, which was passed by voters in 2008. The final price tag was almost $63 million.

Superintendent Steve Tietjen, holding back tears, thanked families for supporting their children and voters for getting behind the new campus.

“Today, in 2013, we see the fruits of your labors and the taxes you’ve paid,” Tietjen said. “You’ve created a great experience for these graduates.”

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanos enterprise.com.

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