Turning Tassels: Saying Goodbye to SRHS at the 2023 Graduation


Tyler Benson, Contributor

June 9th, 2023 marked the end of 12 years of schooling for the senior class at San Rafael High School, and the school made sure to send its former students off with a proper celebration. 

The graduation ceremony took place at 5 o’clock in the afternoon, and even though there had been some worry, the weather couldn’t have been nicer. There was a slight breeze, the sky was clear, and the sun had begun its slow descent over the school. So many bedazzled caps shined brightly alongside their owners, decked out with different stoles and ribbons for their many different achievements.

There was a bittersweet feeling in the air. Many students were crying and hugging their peers for what could be the last time, while others looked anxious to get out and take hold of the future that awaits them. All around students could be found messing with their hair or adjusting their cap ever so slightly to make it look less awkward. Tate Weathers, a fellow graduating senior, said, “I’m pretty sad. Last days here at SR, I enjoyed my time but y’know, I’m excited to look towards the future.”

The students weren’t the only ones feeling emotional. Teachers had stopped by outside the gym to say their farewells to students. Mrs. Zampino, the dean of students, was saying a number of sad goodbyes, and told me with teary eyes, “You guys all started as freshmen when I started here as a freshman, so I think it’s an extra meaningful class for me and I am just so incredibly proud of everybody.”

Brian Casper, a science teacher whose niece is a member of the graduating class, told me, “I got mixed emotions. It’s a little bittersweet. I’m glad to see them grow but sad to see them go.”

After meeting in the gym and getting organized in their rows, students started walking out onto the field. The closer they walked towards the field, the louder the junior bands music could be heard, and the more palpable the anxiety became. Once all students were presently seated, Anna Merk, the class president, addressed the class and introduced the speakers, the faculty on stage, and the senior jazz combo, who would later give a very impressive performance of the song “Chameleon.”

To start the ceremony off, principal Joe Dominguez began his address to the class of 2023. About a minute into his speech, Dominguez revealed a secret to us: the first three paragraphs of his speech had been written by ChatGPT, an AI chatbot used for generating text. He described his first speech as, “generic, void of creativity, and not me.” This boasted some laughs from the audience, but more importantly caught their attention. The next two minutes of his speech were delivered with passion, confidence, and genuine care. Dominguez preached about the many ways our generation will overcome “the social-media influenced and screen dominated existence,”and about how he will rest easy knowing we will take the lead on problems needed to be changed. 

This was Mr. Dominguez’s 14th time attending a graduation ceremony as a faculty member of a school, but his very first time attending one at SR. Dominguez told me that, “I have had graduating classes of almost 700 before, but with our senior class of 350, it makes it a bit more sentimental because I know your faces a lot better.”

Other than Anna, there were four student speakers: Matteo Diaz, Rudy Ramos Velasquez, Norman Tellez Guadamuz, and Thalia Harter, all of whom gave inspiring and heartwarming speeches about their experiences with the many different and special communities at SR. 

Up next was faculty speaker Daniel Allan, who was chosen to speak by the class of 2023 for the fourth time at SR. Allan spoke about the convergence of conclusions he had made at his own graduation, which was that, “Rather than wasting our precious time attempting to be exceptional for people and things that are only worthy of acceptable, we should devote ourselves to being important to the people who are truly important.” 

After all guest speakers had spoken, the valedictorian and salutatorian were announced. The winner of valedictorian went to Isabelle Nicandri, and the winner of salutatorian went to Talia Harter, both of whom accepted their awards with a beaming smile across their face.

Now, after almost two hours of speeches and awards, students would finally walk the stage. The event everyone had waited for. Twelve years of schooling had led to this moment. As students began to walk the stage, the crowds of families and peers erupted with cheering and shouting. It seemed like each student had their own section of the stands designated just for them, with some students even getting air horns or truck horns blown in their honor. Once off stage they would receive a rose and walk back to their seats where they would find out they did not in fact receive a diploma, but something closer to an IOU for when they pick them up in August.

After everyone had their time to shine, and all students were seated, Anna Merk returned once again to finish the ceremony. It was finally time for students to move their tassel from the right to the left, and with this final action, the class of 2023 had graduated. Caps were flung high into the air, and as soon as they were given the chance, graduates fled to the quad where they’d meet their families and rush home to prepare for graduation night.