Valencia Commencement Speech
June 2014Students, Parents, Teachers, and Friends,
It is truly my honor and privilege to welcome you this evening to Valencia High School’s 80th Commencement Ceremony. Before we continue with the ceremony, I am requesting that you refrain from using any noise-makers during the course of the evening so the names of all graduates can be heard.
Please allow me to introduce the distinguished members of the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District Board of Education. Please hold your applause until all have been introduced.Mrs. Carrie Buck, President
- Mrs. Judi Carmona, Clerk
- Mrs. Karin Freeman, Trustee
Also seated on the stage are honorable members of the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District office. Again, please hold your applause until all have been introduced.
Dr. Doug Domene, Superintendent
- Mrs. Jayne Christakos, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services
- Mr. Richard McAlindin, Director of Executive Services
- Mr. Cary Johnson, Director of Educational Services
Also on the stage are:
- Mrs. Judy Miller and Mrs. Connie Underhill, former PYLUSD Board of Education members
- Mrs. Minerva Gandara, Principal of Valadez Middle School
- Mrs. Denise Plascencia, Counselor at Valadez Middle School
Mrs. Gandara and Plascencia are here this evening to honor the first Valadez students to graduate from Valencia High School.
It is my honor and pleasure to have served as principal of Valencia High School for the Class of 2014. Based upon the countless accolades and accomplishments accumulated by the Class of 2014 in the academic, athletic, and performing arts arenas; it is evident to me that this class equals or exceeds any of the previous 79 graduating classes. When academics is the lone focus, it is my opinion that this class has been matched by only two others during my 38 years at Valencia. The Class of 2014 truly exemplifies Valencia’s motto of “Pride, Tradition, and Excellence.”
Academically, Valencia’s achievements continue to be impressive. During the past two months, three of the most highly-recognized publications in the nation have released their annual rankings of the top public high schools in the United States. Out of over 30,000 public high schools in the nation, Newsweek Magazine ranked Valencia 591, the Washington Post ranked Valencia 666, and US News and World Report Magazine ranked Valencia 891. Regardless of the particular ranking and the criteria employed, all three of these prestigious publications are in agreement that Valencia is in the top three percent of the high schools in the nation. 2014 was yet another banner year for academic competition at Valencia. Cumulatively, no other public or private high school in Orange County out-performed Valencia in Academic Decathlon, Chemistry Olympiad, and Science Olympiad. Valencia’s Academic Decathlon team finished first in Orange County for the third time in the past six years, Chemistry Olympiad finished second in the county after finishing first the three previous years, and Science Olympiad finished fourth in the county and only one point out of third. For the sixth year during my eight years as principal, no other Orange County high school could match the cumulative prowess of Valencia’s academic competition teams.
During the course of this spring, Valencia seniors were accepted to a multitude of nationally renowned universities. Next year, Valencia will be well-represented within the Ivy League with students being accepted to Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Penn, and Brown. This was the first time in Valencia’s illustrious history that two students were accepted to Princeton. Other seniors were accepted to such prestigious private universities including Baylor, Boston U, BYU, Carnegie Mellon, Drexel, Duke, Emory, Fordham, George Washington, Johns Hopkins, Marquette, Northwestern, Northeastern, Notre Dame, Purdue, Rice, St. John’s, Syracuse, Vanderbilt, Washington U of St. Louis, and Xavier. Valencia seniors were even more so represented at prestigious public universities outside of California including Arizona, Florida, Ohio, Oregon and Washington State Universities and the Universities of Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Texas, and Washington. This is the seventh year out of the past eight that a Tiger has been accepted to the top technology university in the nation, MIT, while others were accepted to Georgia, Illinois, and Virginia Techs. Valencia seniors will be equally represented at prestigious local universities including Claremont McKenna, Chapman, Occidental, Pepperdine, USC, Santa Clara, St. Mary’s, and Whittier. Valencia continues to be over-represented at the University of California during a trend when acceptances are being significantly cut due to budget constraints and increased out-of-state and international acceptances. This year, double-digit Valencia students were accepted to the top five UC schools highlighted by 20 to UCLA, 16 to Cal Berkeley, 41 to UC San Diego, 32 to UC Santa Barbara, and an amazing 53 to UC Irvine. In addition, I have been told by a university representative that Valencia is the number one “feeder high school” to California State University, Fullerton. A record 133 Valencia seniors were accepted to Cal State Fullerton this spring. Even more impressive is the fact that out of the 15 CSUF President’s Scholars in the entire State of California; four are Valencia Tigers. In addition, 35 students were accepted to Cal Poly Pomona and 33 to Long Beach State. I’m especially proud of the Valencia Tiger who earned appointment to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis. It is estimated that 98% of the Class of 2014 will be pursuing post-secondary studies including 45% who will be matriculating to four year universities. In addition, 86% of our AVID seniors will be attending 27 different four-year universities and over 80% of these students will be the first in their family to pursue post-secondary education. Collectively, the Class of 2014 earned more than $4 million in scholarships. The academic achievements of the class of 2014 are impressive; however, I caution you. The academic knowledge you acquired means little until it is used. I encourage you to use the knowledge you gained during the past four years because ideas without action are worthless.
The athletic achievements by the Class of 2014 were equally impressive. Valencia’s Boys’ Soccer, Swimming, and Tennis teams along with the Girls’ Tennis team captured Empire League Championships. This was the 8th consecutive league championship for Boys Tennis. The Boys’ Tennis, Boys’ Water Polo, and Boys’ Baseball Teams were CIF Semi-Finalists. 15 out of 24 varsity athletic teams advanced to the CIF playoffs. Over 80 Tiger athletes were named to All-Empire League teams and 2 Tiger athletes were honored as Empire League Most Valuable Players in their respective sports. Eight athletes were selected to All-CIF teams and 3 received athletic scholarships.
2014 was also a noteworthy year for the performing arts at VHS. This year, the Tiger Regiment was ranked first in Southern California in the 4A Division most of the year while the Color Guard and Drum Line captured first place at the SCSBOA Marching Band Championships. The Valencia Jazz Bands were recognized among the best in Southern California as the Jazz Combo finished first and the Jazz Band fourth at the Reno Jazz Festival. This year, Valencia’s Sinfonia and Camerata orchestras both received their superior rating for the 9th consecutive year at the Southern California School Band and Orchestra Associations Festival. The Drama program not only produced two main stage productions, Brighton Beach Memoirs and Dracula, the latter being featured by the Orange County Register, they were also top ten finalists in this year’s 95th Annual DTASC Shakespeare Festival. The Girls’ Dance program finished second in large team dance at both state and national levels which is the highest ranking ever by a Valencia dance team. This was the year that the Valencia Choir Program grew to the largest ever with 240 vocalists. During this school year, over 30 percent of Valencia’s total enrollment were involved in the performing arts.
Amazingly, the Class of 2014 logged over 55,000 community service hours. One only needs to do simple calculation to realize that our seniors logged more than double the hours they were required to fulfill graduation requirements. It has been said often that people don’t care how much you know about them once they realize how much you care about them. Caring is contagious and I encourage you to make it a lifelong practice.
At this time, I would like to give special recognition to the 53 scholars dressed in white robes who are candidates for the prestigious International Baccalaureate Diploma and the 70 scholars dressed in gray robes who are Val Tech Diploma recipients. After only nine diploma classes, based upon completion rate and diploma recipients, Valencia’s International Baccalaureate Program is the number one IB Program in Orange County and is positioned to award county record number diplomas in 2016. Also, I would like to recognize three academic school records. The Class of 2014 had 98 Distinguished Scholars who are those with a cumulative weighted grade point average of 3.8 and above, 95 Collegiate Scholars who are those with an unweighted grade point average of 3.5 and above including eight AP and/or IB courses, and the 62 seniors who completed their high school career with a 4.0 and above cumulative weighted grade point average. I would like to give special recognition to those 3 students who achieved straight As. Some might attribute these records to grade inflation when in reality it is due to the 45 weighted college courses offered at Valencia. Finally, I wish to recognize the school record ten National Merit Finalists, the school record 23 National Merit Commended Scholars, the school record four National Hispanic Scholars, and our one National Achievement Scholarship Program recipient.
I am indeed extremely proud of the Class of 2014. Your Academic Performance Index during your first three years; the record number of AP and IB Exams you took coupled with record pass rates each of your four years; your numerous academic, athletic, and performing arts achievements; and the fact that 98% of you will be matriculating to post-secondary studies including 45% to four-year universities, makes me proud to be principal of Valencia High School.
Whether you transition to a four-year university, a junior college, a technical school, the labor force, or the 7 of you joining the military; I am confident that we have taught you the skills necessary to be successful in the 21st Century.
I am so proud that we have taught you to work collaboratively with those of a different gender, race, ethnicity, religion, language, or socio-economic status because that will determine the fate of American Society as we become more pluralistic. However, at the same time, I’m equally proud that we have taught you to be independent. Never forget that the best place to find a helping hand is at the end of your arm.
In closing, I want you to know that the faculty and staff of Valencia High School will always hold fond memories of the Class of 2014. I encourage you to set lofty goals and to pursue your dreams. After all, a goal is simply a dream with a deadline. Keeping this in mind I also encourage you not to postpone this pursuit. Time is free, but it is priceless. Once you have lost it, you can never get it back. I truly believe that people become successful the minute they decide to become successful. It is your decision to make.
It is now time for you to leave Valencia High School. Please remember that we are judged by what we finish, not by what we start and this seems like the perfect place for you to start and for me to finish.
“Once a Tiger, always a Tiger.”