Closing out Tracy’s high school graduation season was Delta Charter High School’s commencement ceremony on Saturday morning at the school’s New Campus.

The theme of this year’s ceremony celebrated students persevering through multiple obstacles, as each speaker touched upon the different setbacks the class of 2021 has had to face. The event featured many speakers that led the crowd to bouts of tears and laughter.

“It's been said that adversity builds character. Well if that is true, then these young people are overflowing with character,” said David Thoming, superintendent of New Jerusalem Elementary School District, as he tried to hold back tears.

Thoming touched upon the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic caused when schools were told to cease in-person instruction and thanked his colleagues for their collaborative efforts in bringing students back to school at the tail end of the first semester last year. Thoming noted that, not only did the class of 2021 have to face this and normal teenage challenges, but that students had to deal with the grief of losing two of their classmates -- Elias David Gamez and Brandon Hawk Persiani -- who passed away in 2016 and 2020, respectively.

“I also want to thank you, the families, for putting your trust in us to educate and nurture your children at this school. All of you come here by choice -- except for my kids,” said Thoming with a light chuckle. “And that is an honor we don't take lightly. Thank you so much for coming today.”

Student speakers spent their time at the podium, not only commending and encouraging their fellow students, but also expressing immense gratitude for their parents and the New Jerusalem team.

“I know not much in the past four years has been easy. Here we are last. The final scene of this chapter in our lives. Most of us, including myself, would not have gone this far without the help and encouragement and the amazing staff here at Delta High. So, thank you for giving us your time working so hard to solve all our problems, and making high school memorable,” said Salutatorian Isaiah Larsen.

Larsen challenged his classmates to take their learning experiences to build better futures.

“One thing we can say for sure is that having made it through the pandemic and managing to graduate, we have gained valuable experiences with big challenges. Classmates, I encourage you to take what you've learned here at Delta high, and to use it to make life better for yourself, for others, and to make our world just a little bit better,” he said.

Valedictorian Eyan Manning battled with the breeze as winds started blowing strongly when it was his turn to speak. When his graduation cap and part of his speech blew away after a particularly strong gust, he quickly regained his composure and said, “That was long overdue anyway.”

Manning urged his classmates to not let distractions in life deter them from achieving their goals.

“Know, you will go farther than you ever imagined possible. I know that a lot of you will. And I know you will go far in life,” he said. “And to those who don't necessarily believe that this can be you, it's not too late to take a fresh start -- you're worth it. There is no better time to start fresh than right now. We've graduated high school. We can put the old to rest and start anew.”

Manning and other student speakers took some time to thank Delta Charter High School Principal Amy Davis, who was also leaving Delta for new opportunities at the end of the school year.

“The author Rita Pearson once said, ‘Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insist that they become the best that they can possibly be.’ This pretty much sums up our principal,” said students Trista Thoming and Cyrus Woodward in a joint sendoff speech for Davis.

“I was working really hard to make it through this graduation without crying and that was unsuccessful,” said Davis after hugging Woodward and Thoming and making her way on stage to present the graduating class. “To me, personally, it is an honor that I get to leave with all of you. I love you all, and I am always here for you.”

• Contact Brianna Guillory at bguillory@tracypress.com or 209-835-4229.

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