The ominous date of Friday, March 13, 2020, is generally associated with the beginning of the pandemic.
If anyone ever performs a non-scientific analysis of its ending, locals might just point to Friday, May 27, 2022: San Marino High School’s graduation that followed 26 months of public health- and safety-related restrictions. Going merely on general demeanor, this event was about as close to normalcy as one could get when compared to the last two years. Masks and social distancing were both scarce from the time the 266 graduates and family members assembled at 5 p.m. Friday and remained so until Grad Night dispersed 12 hours later.
Understandably, the pandemic was present in the well-chosen words of those who spoke at the school’s 67th commencement exercise.
“It’s our honor and privilege to be able to speak today, especially as this graduating class of 2022 has had such an unconventional high school experience,” said about-to-be-graduate Lucas Chen, invoking the proverbial elephant into Titan Stadium. “Yes, Covid and the resulting pandemic turned our worlds upside down, with most of us spending a fourth of our high school experience online. Perhaps that’s why our class voted for Marvel as our Grad Night theme, because, like them, we were faced with what felt at times like the end of the world. However, we collectively rose to the challenge, persevered, and have come out stronger for it.”
Chen was chosen to represent the Class of 2022 along with Emma Lu and Stanley Wong.
“Some of us struggled with the difficulties of learning academic material online, or with the isolation from our peers,” said Wong. “Many of us struggled with the abrupt ending of all in-person sports, arts and extracurricular activities, and some classmates also encountered challenges with mental health and wellness. We struggled together, laughed helplessly together, and many of us cried together at the stressful reality that was before us. But throughout it all, we persisted.”
Wu embraced the lessons learned from their collective struggles.
“Though we’re able to look back at everything we’ve accomplished and are starting to realize that we’re ending this chapter of our lives, the future ahead of us shines bright,” said Wu. “As we head off to college, trade schools, jobs, the military, or some other new and thrilling adventure, it feels like we have our whole lives ahead of us. The world is our oyster, they say. But, just as these four years have been unexpected, challenging, and gone by in a flash, we must remember that life is unpredictable, and waits for no one.”
Speaking on behalf of the San Marino Board of Education, C. Joseph Chang continued the theme.
“This is a class of perseverance,” said Chang. “In the next part of your life, you will meet people of different ages. I believe that everyone goes through difficult times. What makes your situation unique is that as a generation, you have persisted through difficult times much earlier than others. I suggest that you continue to persevere. as it will make you stronger. Benjamin Franklin said that ‘Energy and persistence conquer all things.’ Having difficult times early in your life has taught you to persist. This is part of the secret of success. I believe you will persist to overcome difficulty to reach your dreams.”
Principal Jason Kurtenbach was named principal of San Marino High School shortly after the onset of the pandemic and has occasionally mentioned that it took him a while to get up to speed due to distance learning.
“I know I am going to get emotional,” Kurtenbach said. “I love these guys.”
Chen closed the student portion of the speech by quoting Gwen Stacy from the “Amazing Spiderman 2”, which is part of the Marvel franchise.
“I know it feels like we’re saying goodbye,” he said. “But we will carry a piece of each other into everything that we do next, to remind us of who we are, and of who we’re meant to be.”
Superintendent Linda de la Torre also addressed the pandemic in her address.
“I want to ask you, class of 2022, how will your pandemic-fueled experiences at San Marino High School these past four years shape your thrilling lives?’ she said. “Looking down the road, when you return for your 10-year reunion in 2032, who will you be and how will this pandemic have impacted your life and future? Despite the effects of the pandemic our students have still found a way to persevere and give back to others.”
Lu and Wong then joined Chen to declare the last of their words before graduating.
“Congratulations, Class of 2022,” they shouted in unison. “We did it!”
The successes continued well into the next morning at the aforementioned “Marvel” Grad Night, which marked yet another return toward normalcy. One of the most unique and notable segments of the experience for San Marino High School students is the ceremony which is traditionally held following graduation and lasts until sunrise. In 2020, graduates held a drive-by ceremony through campus and postponed Grad Night until July 4th weekend in 2021, amounting to a one-year reunion. The 2021 Grad Night took place before its 2020 counterpart, and both were resounding successes. Hopefully, 2022’s edition marked a return to normalcy. It sure felt that way on Friday.