The 2008 Santa Barbara High graduating class.

I’ve been rather cynical about my high school experience and the many embarrassing events that have happened in the past four years. In many cases, I would prefer my awkward transition from adolescence to adulthood to be overlooked. For this reason, I was ecstatic for my high school graduation to take place. Assistant principal David Hodges reminded us that this was the official ceremony to adulthood, and I could not wait for it to begin.

It’s well known to locals that Santa Barbara High School is full of tradition. Its very motto, “Once a Don, Always a Don” shows the prestige alumni are given for the rest of their lives. As thus, our graduation had a symbolic meaning. We were reminded that we will forever be part of this community.

Before the ceremony began, I sat in the gym watching my ridiculously clad peers roam the room. I impatiently watched the clock hand slowly make its rounds. To pass time, we joked that after four years, it took three days to teach us how to sit and stand. My friend pondered why boys wore green gowns while girls wore semi-transparent white gowns. We laughed because the traditions seemed silly and because all we wanted was for high school to be over.

The time to assemble arrived, and we were herded into our assigned places. We slowly made our way to the top of the hill and peeked at the crowd through the fence. The stadium was packed. The graduates surrounding me chattered nervously, shaking with excitement. A few feet away, Michito “Frank” Fukuzawa calmly stood, waiting to walk down the hill after 66 long years as a result of being placed in a Japanese internment camp only days before he was supposed to walk. His presence reminded me that the ceremony was so important that a man would wait three generations to participate in it.

The band started to play and we began the traditional walk down the hill. The crowd roared as we stepped onto the track, proceeded around the field, and stood in front of our seats, just as we’d practiced. Over five hundred students later, I finally got to sit down.

As a new graduate, I still view my commencement with humor and even some disdain. I look back on the graduation ceremony as a reflection of a student’s experience in high school. We impatiently practiced walking, singing, sitting and standing before showcasing what we’d learned. Adults went through formalities while students slyly inflated balloons and tossed them around. We amused ourselves doing the wave while the principal shot us looks of disapproval. We multitasked daydreaming while keeping an ear open for cues and directions. Finally, when the ceremony ended, we were finally let free.

In a commencement speech, student body president Karl Sandrich said that it was not the teachers, the grades, nor the inside jokes that we would remember about high school. Instead, we would remember the feelings we had and the pride of being a Don.

I have to agree with Karl. Hearing Mr. Fukuzawa’s story taught me that graduation was not just another assignment I had to do. It was a symbolic conclusion to four years spent at a historic school, and I should look back on it with pride.

Cheers to the class of 2008!

Editor’s note: This is Amy Chong’s last Senior File column for the Independent. As a high school graduate, she is no longer a senior and will become a freshman next fall at UC Irvine. Goodbye and good luck, Amy!


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