By CONNIE BAER and LYNN BAER
For 98 years, Grossmont High School’s students and staff have taken great pride in the traditions surrounding graduation. Thursday, June 6, 440 seniors became part of an amazing group of more than 37,000 Foothiller graduates.
At the beginning of the ceremony, three retiring teachers were recognized for their service to Grossmont: Denise Bates, Tony Camara, and Deb Potter.
Since 1936, graduating seniors have been led into the ceremony by students carrying the Daisy Chain, an 83-year tradition. Each year, the teaching staff selects 50 outstanding juniors on the basis of their school activities, scholarship, and citizenship; being selected is the highest honor awarded juniors. The day before graduation, the students create two ivy chains with daisies interwoven into them. This year again, as in earlier years, the students were excited to use the ivy growing on campus, some of which was originally planted by Kate Sessions in 1926 on the original school, now the district office.
Each year at graduation, outstanding seniors are recognized for their achievements. This year, five students were recognized for their academic excellence: Valedictorians Preston Burke (4.886 GPA) and Daniel O’Laughlin (4.886) and Salutatorians Benjamin Hale (4.878), Janet Nguy (4.833) and Valiant Smith (4.833).
In his valedictorian address to the class, Burke looked ahead to the future, using the movie “Christopher Robin” as a metaphor for life.
“It is not money that makes us rich — it’s simplicity, love, friendship, and family that make our lives rich,” he said. “Success does not bring happiness. Happiness brings success. Follow your dreams because sometimes life is about risking everything for a dream no one can see but you… When times are tough, look to your friends, family, and loved ones for support, but when times are good, look to those same people because they’re the ones who make it all worthwhile.”
Valedictorian O’Laughlin believes, “Since Grossmont is a special place, the skills we have acquired will form the stepping stones to success… The magic in our evolution lies in our teamwork. As we stand shoulder to shoulder, we are not a collection of individuals, but a symbol of unity. We thank our faculty, our fellow students, and our families and friends. You have been the driving force for our determination. I encourage all of you here today, students, faculty, administrators, and families, to live every day with the determination that is the cornerstone of character that embodies a Grossmont Foothiller. It is truly great to be young and a Foothiller.”
Yearly, three perpetual graduation trophies are awarded to seniors. The most prestigious service award given at graduation is the Norman Freeman Award, first given in 1953 as a memorial to Norman Freeman, ASB president, Class of 1947. The trophy is engraved “For the Grossmont student who has most strengthened democracy through participation and leadership in student government.” This year’s recipient, the 66th, is Kennedy Dirkes.
Since 1927, two identical silver loving cup trophies have acknowledged one outstanding young woman and one outstanding young man. Each trophy has the names of the 91 previous recipients. Joining them this year are Megan Collantes and Benjamin Hale.
In 1925, outstanding seniors were first recognized with a Circle G, which was the highest award then given to graduating seniors. In 2019, for the 94th year, six seniors were honored for their all-around excellence in academics, leadership, citizenship, and service: James Bond, Dominic Espino, Rachel Gallegos, Jaymee Gonnello, Leyikun Solomon, and Calista Zaenger. Each student received a gold pin — a G enclosed in a circle, a reminder of the legacy binding GHS graduating seniors.
Since 1965, the Principal’s Letters of Commendations have been awarded to students who have demonstrated leadership in many areas. This year, Principal Dan Barnes recognized 13 students: Tanner Askey, Savannah Baird, Jocelyn Brown-Hill, Jordan Browne, Kira Chong, Emily Fennick, Autumn Maas, Simone Mattia, Daniel O’Laughlin, Kim Sokolnicki, Taylor Vassar, Cameron Williams, and Salem Yohannes.
During the ceremony, Principal Dan Barnes, reflecting on the Class of 2019 and their accomplishments, stated, “Tens of thousands of graduates have crossed this stage before you and many thousands will follow. You are part of a remarkable tradition, one that probably included many grandparents and parents here in the audience this afternoon. So, graduates of 2019, as you celebrate your achievements today, make sure that you take special pride in that tradition.”
To discover more about Grossmont’s historic traditions, visit our website at foothillermuseum.com or visit the GHS Museum Wednesday, July 3 or Aug. 7 from noon-3:30 p.m. or by appointment. Contact: 619-668-6140 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Upcoming Grossmont High School Class Reunions
Class of 1974 45th Reunion: Thursday, Sept. 19 at 6 p.m. alongside the pond at Anthony’s Fish Grotto in La Mesa. Visit bit.ly/2JjkdAO. GHS Museum open from 4-6 p.m. before the reunion; campus tour at 5 p.m.
99th Anniversary and Homecoming: Friday, Sept. 20. GHS Museum open from 4-7 p.m.; campus tour at 5:30 p.m.
— Connie and Lynn Baer write on behalf of the Grossmont High School Museum.