West High’s Class of 2021 were urged to follow their dreams as they graduated in person during the 26th Commencement ceremonies on Saturday at Steve Lopez Stadium.

Principal Zach Boswell welcomed the seniors and their family and friends to the ceremony.

I am so excited that we get to do an in-person graduation for our seniors. We missed a lot over this last year, so we’re excited to be able to celebrate you guys,” Boswell said.

He thanked them for the efforts over the past four years and the adversities they faced in the pandemic.

“I want you guys to know it’s a complete honor to get to be your principal. I’ve been lucky enough to do this job for four years. I started this job when you were freshmen, so you guys hold a special place for me. You guys make me laugh. I’m humbled every day by the stories that you guys share about the things you’ve gone through and the things you’ve overcome and everything you had to overcome to get here,” Boswell said. “Spending a year apart — when you guys were on the screen and we were here on campus — I knew I loved West High and the students and all you guys and I love my job, but that has given me an additional perspective just how much we missed getting to work with you guys and seeing you every day. I can’t wait to see what you accomplish in the future, and I hope you remember the West High staff loves you and we’re so proud of you.”

The approximately 540 seniors were split into three groups, with separate ceremonies to keep crowd numbers under pandemic capacity limits. Graduates could invite four guests to attend the ceremony.

Destiny Diaz, a student in the AVID program, gave the student address to her to her fellow graduates.

“Even as I stand here today, I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that we’re actually graduating. I mean, it feels like yesterday that I was an awkward freshman in Mrs. Loggin’s P.E. class that couldn’t pass the mile for the life of me. And if you’re wondering, no, I still can’t.”

Diaz talked about the success she and her classmates had through the years at West.

“Throughout our lives teachers and family have always told us to make sure that we succeed. Well, what exactly is success? Success isn’t defined by what job you have or how much money you make, success means having the courage to pursue your dreams even when faced by the fear of uncertainty,” Diaz said. “Chasing our dreams isn’t something that should only happen in the movies. As cushy as it might sound, we only have one life to live. If you have a dream or a passion that you want to pursue, then do it, even if doing it scares you to death.”

She told the graduates not to let fear rule their lives.

“Even if there are people in this world who don’t believe in you or don’t support you, as a generation we need to learn how to follow our dreams for ourselves. Sure, there is a possibility that things won’t work out, but that risk lives in every single decision we make. So should we really let our lives be ruled by the fear of uncertainty or by the fear of the unknown. In 30 years from now you don’t want to look back on the life you lived thinking what if.”

Diaz closed urging her fellow seniors to follow their passions.

“I encourage you all to follow your dreams and most importantly just do what makes you happy. If in 10 or 20 years you are able to get up every day and love the life that you are living that is your success,” Diaz said. “As we close this chapter of our lives and begin this new journey, I urge each and every one of you not only to chase your dreams but chase your own happiness as well.”

Brian Stephens, Tracy Unified School District superintendent, presented the Class of 2021 for graduation.

“You should be proud of this moment. You should recognize it as one of the most important steps to adulthood,” Stephens said. “ Your last two years in high school have been like no other. There is no one present who has experienced what you have as a student at West High School.”

Stephens acknowledged the struggles students went through during the pandemic to reach their graduation day.

“I know that it has not been easy and that you have missed some important events and moments you have wanted to experience. There is nothing that we can do or say that will bring back to you what you have lost,” Stephens said. “With that being said, I feel strongly that what you have lost is far surpassed by what you have gained. Each of you have learned in a manner you were not prepared to do so. You have achieved in a most difficult time. The Class of 2021 has more to get here that any other class in the history of West High School. Be proud of what you have achieved and the diploma you have earned.”

• Contact the Tracy Press at tpnews@tracypress.com or 835-3030.

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