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Morgan Hill
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August 12, 2022

CLASS OF 2016: Sobrato seniors rejoice at graduation

The Ann Sobrato High School concert band began to play, cutting all conversations short and directing all the attention to the more than 300 students entering the stage to initiate the June 3 graduation ceremony for the Class of 2016.

It was one last day as seniors at Sobrato.

And one last high school graduation ceremony for many parents watching their youngest child receive their diploma.

That was the case for the David and Feleecia Brown, who, after having attended their oldest daughter’s graduation in 2009, were back doing the same for Savannah Brown. She plans to major in biology at San Jose State University this fall and then advance to medical school on her way to become pediatrician.

“I have to admit it was harder—I had to fight back the tears—because at least when the older (daughter) graduated we still had another one coming through,” David Brown said after the ceremony.

Some of Savannah’s family traveled from Iowa, Illinois and Georgia to celebrate her graduation.

“I love the support. There is nothing like family and support,” Feleecia Brown said.

For other families, seeing a child graduate was a new experience.

Fred Murray, father of Sean Henry Murray  attended the ceremony—along with 15 family members and friends—to celebrate Sean’s achievement.

“We are really proud of him. It’s a big day. He is off to college in a few months, so this is just one more step toward him becoming an adult, becoming a man and going out on his own,” Fred Murray said after the ceremony.

Sean will also major in biology at UC Santa Barbara this fall.

Fred Murray believes Sean’s achievements will benefit his youngest child, who will be a freshman next year, by demonstrating it can be done.

“I think he set a great example for his younger sister,” Fred Murray said. “If you put in effort, work hard and be disciplined it pays off.”

The ceremony began with the traditional Flag Salute and National Anthem. Student Dora Jimenez gave the welcome speech in English and Spanish.

The language barrier was one of the obstacles graduate Brian Marquez Montoya had to overcome. His family moved to the U.S. in 2007 from Mexico, not knowing a word in English. Now, he is bilingual, with a high school diploma and plans to attend UCLA to study public relations.

David Marquez, Brian’s father, said after the ceremony, in Spanish, that he was proud of Brian because he is following his dream to be well-educated and being someone in life. He also noted that Brian has helped his 16-year-old sister stay focused and motivated in school by helping her with her school work.

“When she entered here (Sobrato High School), she wasn’t doing too well in school. But then he (Brian) began helping her. She has raised her grades and I could see Brian has been a great example to her,” David Marquez said in Spanish while Brian huddled up to take pictures with about 20 people that came see him graduate.

Principal Courtney Macko, in her welcome speech, thanked the staff for their dedication to the students in and outside of class, and the families for their support to their graduates.

Morgan Hill Unified School District Superintendent Steve Betando followed with a speech also acknowledging family, but focused more on an ingredient to success: balance.

“I wish for you and charge to you that you all live into adulthood; with so many new adventures and opportunities, that you maintain your balance in life,” Betando said during his speech.

The last staff member to take center stage was keynote speaker Kim Stubbe, a Sobrato English teacher, who encouraged the students to reminisce on their paths that led them to graduate. She said graduations are not just for receiving a diploma, but a celebration of all they have achieved and all the obstacles they have had to overcome to be in the position they are in today.  

“Now that you know the meaning of this moment, embrace it, don’t take it for granted; enjoy it, relish it, for today’s moment, this moment will become tomorrow’s memory,” Stubbe said during her speech.

The graduates were then given one last message from their ASB President Karly Rebozzi. She made a point to remind the graduates to use everything they have learned in high school to be successful in the different paths they will partake in.

Senior President Sesa Ferdun had to fight back tears when she talked about saying a final goodbye to friends and family after graduation. She said it was not as easy as it was when they parted ways before and after school, knowing they would see each other the next day.

“I aspire to be all of you; I aspire to have the confidence of the drama members, the persistence of our athletes, the commitment of our FFA and the loyalty of our staff members,” Ferdun said during her speech.

Salutatorian Natalie Kuwatani reminisced on all the experiences the class of 2016 had, including the bus breaking down on their way to Disneyland and enduring mid-90s temperatures during their graduation.

“We gained wisdom, experience and unforgettable friendships within the walls of these classes. Friends may be far away but those memories will always be in our minds,” Kuwatani said in her speech.

After all the emotions shown by his peers, Valedictorian Parth Shah took a different approach. He thanked the seagulls for not being part of the ceremony, pointed out it was the first time he had seen some students without their daily coffee cup and poked fun at some teaching methods by some of the staff.

When he was serious, Parth encouraged his peers to thank their siblings, parents, coaches and that one teacher who had a positive influence on them.

After the speeches, the time had come for the students to walk down the ramp, one by one, victorious. Some showed their excitement by putting their fists up, others “dabbed” down the ramp and even a group of friends opened their gowns to show their superhero shirts.

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