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The 'real work' begins: American Canyon High School seniors graduate

With balloons waving, horns blaring and black gowns flapping in a welcome breeze, American Canyon High School seniors officially launched themselves into the next stage of their young lives.

On Tuesday afternoon, several hundred 12th graders received their diplomas under sunny skies.

ACHS senior Paul Tregoning said he was “very thankful” to be receiving his diploma in person, “considering last year,” when graduation was reduced to a drive-through ceremony due to COVID-19.

“Despite everything, I’m still really excited about it," Tregoning said. "I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time.”

“It feels really good to be able to graduate with my class, but I’m nervous at the same time,” said ACHS senior Ashley Perez.

What was she nervous about? “My cap falling off,” she said with smile.

Being a high school student during a global pandemic was not easy, said Perez.

Forced into distance learning, at times, “it felt like my motivation was leaving me, but I knew I had to finish strong.”

Senior Anastasia Zuniga compared getting her diploma to “letting go of the past and moving forward with the future.”

The best part of high school was the rallies, said the new graduate. “They were just very enthusiastic. It was an amazing experience.”

When asked, Zuniga has this advice for incoming freshman at ACHS: “Always put grades first and always be on time.”

Itzi Padilla, 18, was also nervous, but more about the college-level classes she’d be taking next year at Napa Valley College.

Her best memories of high school include spending time with friends and being part of the academic decathlon, she said.

Padilla said one of her favorite classes was ceramics, “because I got to learn something new that was out of my zone,” she said.

Jacobo Lopez is graduating from ACHS but he’s not taking much time off. On June 28, he’ll join the Marine Corps. He could have waited until later this summer, but Lopez chose not to delay.

“I just want to get out there,” he said. Joining the Marines, “is something that called to me.”

Lopez said if he could have one “do-over” in high school, “I’d try to do more sports,” he said. For example, “I wish I did cross-country sooner.”

Being a high school student during the pandemic “was hell,” said Lopez. “It was boring being at home.” He found it hard to stay motivated, but said he knew he had to dig deep and carry on.

Other ACHS seniors shared their thoughts about graduation day.

When asked about the best part of graduation, ACHS senior Devin Pearson had an easy reply: “The diploma!”

“Being handed a diploma is what you live for,” he said. “You show it to your kids, your grandkids,” and on and on.

Pearson also said the rallies were the best part of his high school experience. “Our school culture is really energetic,” he explained. Rallies are “the moment when we get the most hype.”

If Pearson could do one thing differently, “I wish I tried harder—I could have gotten a cord,” to wear around his neck on graduation day, the student said.

Kenzie Dado said she's “very happy we’re able to have an in-person graduation,” especially when the previous seniors did not. In fact, this was one of the few times this school year that the whole class had been together at once. “It’s very unusual to see everyone at once,” like this, she said, looking around at several hundred classmates. 

Dado said if she could change one thing about her high school experience, she’d have gone to more events. Before COVID-19, she told herself, “I’ll do that junior year or senior year.” And then the pandemic hit and some of those opportunities were gone for good.

Senior Jade Alexander wore her senior cap decorated with long white feathers. Draped around her neck were multiple leis made of intricately folded $1 and $5 bills, along with wrapped packets of candy, bags of chips and faux flowers.

She’ll be attending Fresno State next year, studying pre-nursing.

“I’m proud that I graduated with a 3.5 GPA,” and got in to the university of her choice, Alexander said.

After taking their seats on the school’s stadium field, Principal Crystal Lopez congratulated the seniors.

“You have been through it all,” said Lopez. “When you tell your grandchildren about your years in high school…they may not believe the stories that you tell.”

This pandemic has taught us how interconnected we all are, she said.

Yes, you’re graduating, but it’s an unfinished story, Lopez told the students.

“The real work begins now,” and the story continues.

American Canyon High School seniors graduate—in style. Recognize anyone you know?

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You can reach reporter Jennifer Huffman at 256-2218 or jhuffman@napanews.com

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Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.

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