Maroon and gold flooded Coach Parks Field at Menlo Atherton High School Thursday afternoon as family and friends beamed with pride and anxious young students counted their last minutes as high school seniors. The 60th annual commencement ceremony led 377 students to their diplomas.
“We won’t just be tossed into the world that awaits us,” said graduation speaker Rebecca Strehlow. “We will dive.”
Supportive fans of the graduates overflowed the bleachers and surrounding chairs with balloons, signs and the ever so subtle air horns.
Philippe Teu stood with flowers and balloons in hand and waited to greet his newly graduated cousin, Sulia Teu.
Philipe, who calls his cousin CGT for Cut Throat Gorgeous, hopes his cousin will take the world by storm.
“I hope that the world is her oyster, and she can do whatever she wants to,” he said.
The ceremony presented six graduation speakers each with a different perspective of their time at Menlo-Atherton.
Sergio Balcazar, a student who immigrated to the U.S, spoke of his struggles with adapting to a new school.
“Being an immigrant is hard, but I have never made being an immigrant an excuse,” he said. “I have always found a way.”
Balcazar gave special thanks to his Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) teacher.
“If it weren’t for the support of my AVID teacher Ms. Burton-Tillson I wouldn’t have even thought about going to college,” Balcazar said. “Ms. B.T, you are like my second mom and I love you.”
Balcazar, who will attend Menlo College, will be the first in his family to attend college.
Hannah Rosenfield spoke of her decision to attend Menlo Atherton High instead of a private school.
“It turned out to be the best thing that could ever happen to me,” she said.
According to Alice Kleeman, College Advisor at Menlo Atherton High, this particular graduating class is special in that they all respect one another.
“I adore them,” she said. “They’re very good to one another. I really love the way they support one another."
The graduation program listed 189 students as receiving various awards and scholarships.
“We have a lot of students making all kinds of great choices,” Kleeman said.
Strehlow joked of the lack of functional hand dryers and various other idiosyncrasies of attending a public high school.
“They ultimately bring originality and even some charm,” she said.
But the key speaker of the night was undoubtedly The senior took to the stage with a fiery fervor like that of Martin Luther King Jr. as he addressed his fellow peers and the crowd.
He spoke of a former vice principal who told him he would never amount to anything in life.
“That statement remained inside of me but I refused to let it dominate me,” he said.
Genevro, who has Attention Deficit Hyper Active Disorder, said he struggled with ADHD but persevered. He spoke of the positive and motivating words of his grandfather saying it takes both good and bad experiences to make a person who they are.
“He made a believer out of me,” Genevro said. “It takes the positive charge and the negative charge for the battery to produce energy.”
According to Justin Genevro’s uncle, Bob Genevro, Justin wants to utilize his outstanding oratory skills and become a preacher. Genevro’s voice boomed throughout the field, captivating his audience.
“Sometimes a mountain is hard to climb but yet we keep on climbing,” he said. “Class of 2011, wherever we decide to go in life, our attitude determines our altitude!”
For his speech, Genevro received roaring cheers and a standing ovation.
After an hour of reading each individual name, the Menlo Atherton High School class of 2011 turned their tassels and together became graduates. With a background track of “Celebrate”, families and friends ran to open arms with screams of excitement.
Holly Cogan, now a high school graduate, joyfully jumped up in down as her family joined her.
“I feel absolutely amazing,” she said. “I’m so excited to study what I want to study and start the rest of my life!”