Graduating Dragons spell success

Different. Responsible. Appreciative. Gallant. Open-minded. Noble. Sophisticated. These words were used to describe Sonoma Valley High School’s graduating Class of 2014.

“When you take the first letter of each word, you get Dragons,” senior class president and graduate Ishqa Rousseau-Fearonce told her peers at the school’s 120th commencement ceremony Friday night. “Because no matter where we go, we will always be Dragons.”

“We never thought this day would come … but we waited for its delivery,” Rousseau-Fearonce said from a podium flanked by her fellow graduates and a crowd of hundreds of members of the Sonoma community.

The June 6 graduation ceremony was held at Arnold Field on First Street West and staffed by the Native Sons of the Golden West Sonoma Chapter.

Salutatorian John “Jack” Murphy, who will be studying engineering at the University of Michigan in the fall, reminded his peers how much they had all grown throughout the relatively brief journey of high school and hinted at their potential for future growth as they move on to the next chapter in their lives. He urged his peers to thank people in their lives that have helped to shape the people they have become, from parents to teachers to friends to mentors in the community.

“Remember this quote from Bill Wilson, ‘To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world,’” Murphy told his fellow graduates.

Valedictorian Christina Uzzo, who will be at University of Chicago in the fall, took the stage and began to talk to her peers about things that made Sonoma the ideal place to go to school – but not before taking a moment for a “selfie” photograph.

She said it was fun to grow up in a small town – affectionately calling it “Slownoma” – with a strong community. “But as we move forward, it will be our job to be the future icons of Sonoma.”

Echoing similar sentiments of staying true to one’s roots, Cmdr. Kurt Bohlken, a Navy fighter pilot and 1992 SVHS graduate, addressed the crowd with several important life lessons to propel them in their newest journey, advising the graduates to distance themselves from everyday distractions in order to figure out their dream.

Bohlken quoted author Ernest Hemingway: “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”

He told the class of his own failures and triumphs, struggling to achieve his goal of becoming a fighter pilot, a dream he’d had since he was 10. His message was for the teens to expect failure throughout their lives, but to challenge it. Bohlken didn’t get into the Naval Academy on his first try, nor did he get accepted for the fighter pilot position in the first round – but his perseverance eventually got him his dream job.

Bohlken reminded the graduates that the most important thing is “the joy of a life well lived.”

Principal Kathleen Hawing, who came into her position last year and whose daughter, Maria Hawing, was part of the 2014 graduating class, shared with the commencement crowd her long list of achievements and adventures in an effort to inspire them to seek out opportunities.

“Take a risk,” she said. “Try something new … life is an adventure.”

Hawing, who recounted her family’s experiences living abroad, said, “My hope for you (graduates) is that you will live a life that gives you stories to tell.”

Musical performances included Kyra Hinton’s rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” and Jamie and Jennifer Howlett’s duet of “Almost There” from Disney’s “The Princess and The Frog.” Itzel Macedonio Santiago also served as a Spanish interpreter.

In the final message from the Class of 2014, valedictorian Uzzo said, “Goodbye for now.”

“Do great things in (your) future so when we say we are from Sonoma, everyone will know what we are talking about.”

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