On a sunny, windswept day that had graduates clutching, and sometimes nearly losing, their caps, American Canyon High School’s commencement was an event dominated by numbers.
There were 365 graduates sporting black gowns inside Wolf Den Stadium late Wednesday afternoon that was packed with hundreds of parents, relatives and friends.
Twenty-two graduates were named valedictorians based on grade point average and academic success.
One valedictorian in particular, Emily Margolati, put the commencement ceremony in numerical perspective.
“4,707 days ago,” said Margolati in the opening lines of her speech, “we stepped foot on the blacktop of our elementary school, anxiously waiting and crying on our first day of kindergarten.”
She recounted other milestones for her and her classmates in terms of numbers. They began high school “1,393 days ago” and “started the countdown to bigger, better things.”
Last August, or “294 days ago,” they started their senior year, and “we began talking about this moment,” Margolati said.
“Sixty days ago was our last Prom, 23 days ago we started our last AP tests,” she added, “and just hours ago marked the last time we will all be together in one place.”
The Class of 2018 had other numbers, dates and important events surrounding it, according to Principal Crystal Lopez, who spoke during the ceremony.
Three was the number of principals the Class of 2018 had during their time at ACHS. The school’s first principal, Mark Brewer, left in 2015. His successor, Damon Wright, was promoted last year to district headquarters, resulting in Lopez taking over.
The Class of 2018, Lopez also said, began high school in August 2014, the same month that American Canyon and the rest of the Napa Valley was rocked by a powerful earthquake.
Their senior year was marked by another natural disaster — the October wildfires — which gave many seniors and other ACHS students the chance to shine while volunteering at the local emergency shelter set up in the school’s gym.
“That was just one example of your community service,” she told the graduates seated on the stadium field.
Commencement also marked the last opportunity for retiring Superintendent Patrick Sweeney to address ACHS graduates and their families in multiple languages — something he has done each year during graduation.
“Thank you for coming to celebrate our students,” Sweeney said in English after briefly speaking in Spanish, Tagalog and other languages.
Sweeney took over Napa Valley Unified School District in 2010, the same year ACHS opened its doors.
He said ACHS was the first school back then that he visited. “To see it eight years later,” he said, “it still looks beautiful.”
“There’s no place like American Canyon,” he said to applause and shouts of joy from the hundreds on hand.