If anything can be said about La Cañada High School's graduating class of 2013, it's that they are utterly unafraid to let their light shine and, in doing so, make the world a brighter place.
Graduates were a sight to behold Thursday evening as they streamed enthusiastically onto the field of Spartan Stadium. The tops of their maroon and gold mortar boards were decorated with signs, symbols and pictures hinting at next steps — logos of colleges near and abroad (Vassar, Emory, Brigham Young, UCLA and UC Davis to name a few), pictures indicating travel or, in one case, an intriguing felt question mark.
PHOTOS: La Cañada High School graduation
ASB President Amy Young reveled in admiration for rapper/producer Jay-Z, honoring him for his steadfast commitment to greatness and influence on the world, while encouraging students to stand independently.
"I'm sure everyone here today has their own Jay-Z," Young told the crowd. "Today, we politely thank those role models and tell them we'll take it from here. Class of 2013, we got 99 problems, but high school ain't no longer one of them."
Matt Jones comically took fellow grads back to seventh-grade, when backpacks were bigger than students, advising they take momentary pause from striving for future gains to bask in the ever-fleeting present.
"We're all going to look back and say these were the best times of our lives," he said. "Life's going to be fantastic. Let's just appreciate the now."
LCHS Principal Ian McFeat offered a literal appreciation of the class' accomplishments, replacing his own mortar board with an LCHS baseball cap before saying, "Now it's my turn to do a little bragging about you guys."
This year's 372 graduates maintained an average GPA of 3.8, he said, the highest being a 4.74. Among their ranks were 120 California Scholarship Federation Gold Sealbearers and three U.S. Presidential scholars.
Graduates will attend prestigious colleges all over the country, including five of eight Ivy League schools. Collectively, they'd earned $5,301,744 in scholarships.
"As a first-year principal, I couldn't think of a better class to be a principal for," McFeat concluded, introducing the ceremonial awarding of diplomas.
After the tassel change and cap toss, spectators swarmed the field, clutching flowers and balloons as they scanned the crowd. New grads broke off into groups, girls in goldenrod hugging each other and re-affixing bobby pins as boys in maroon mugged for photos, arms folded triumphantly or fists pumped into the air.
Micaela Anderson chatted with friends as she waited for family to arrive. The tall, blond girl stood even taller in high-heeled wedges, her face flushed with excitement.
"I still can't believe it's real," said Anderson, who will attend Rutgers University in the fall. "I remember thinking freshman year this is going to be forever, and now it's here and it's over. It's bittersweet, I guess."
Nearby, parents discovered sons and daughters, congratulating and embracing them heartily. Janet Fujikuni held a large, laminated image of her son, Jason, styled after a Van Gogh self-portrait, complete with head bandage. The back read, "You GOGH, Jason!"
The lifelong artist, who soon leaves for the Rhode Island School of Design, smiled and cringed a little to see the piece he'd created two years earlier writ large — he's since improved. After the ceremony, Jason Fujikuni planned to go see "Man of Steel" with some friends. How would he feel tomorrow, upon waking to find high school just a memory?
"It will be kind of nostalgic," he said, "but I'm hopeful for the future."
As the crowd dispersed toward cars, dinners and party plans, a Mylar balloon broke free from its string and rose swiftly above the melee. For a moment it glinted, catching the rays of the setting sun before disappearing into unseen heights.
--SARA CARDINE may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.