CARPINTERIA, Calif. — Olympic Gold Medalist Dain Blanton brought his medal and inspiring words to celebrate the 2021 graduating class at Carpinteria High School Thursday. 

Blanton, who is also the head coach of the 2021 NCAA championship-winning beach volleyball team at University of Southern California, was the first commencement speaker in school history, according to principal Gerardo Cornejo. He spoke at the in-person graduation ceremony on the school campus after an academic year filled with remote learning due to COVID-19. 

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“As you leave here, I want you to make a promise to yourselves that you’re not afraid to fail, that you’re going to go for it, you’re going to extend yourselves, put yourselves in uncomfortable situations,” Blanton said in his speech. 

This is a graduating class that experienced several disruptions in their high school careers, from being evacuated from their homes during the 2017 Thomas Fire and the 2018 Montecito mud and rock slides during their Freshman year to transitioning to remote learning at the end of their Junior year and through their Senior year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“During the past four years, you have experienced many challenges, triumphs, and created memories that have only made you stronger as you begin your post-secondary journey,” Cornejo said in his address to the graduates. 

Blanton has a personal connection to many of the students at Carpinteria High School through Get Focused…Stay Focused!®, a nonprofit that helps students create meaningful 10-year life and career plans. As part of this program at Carpinteria High School, Blanton mentored the students starting in their freshman year on a variety of life and career planning topics through online videos. 

“All of you as freshmen went through the [Get Focused…Stay Focused!] program, where you got to build a 10-year plan,” Blanton said in his speech. “And I know on that 10-year plan, this day was marked down on 100 percent of those plans because this is a huge opportunity. To get to this point is an incredible milestone.” 

In his speech, Blanton talked about how he and his teammate defied odds for winning a gold medal for beach volleyball at the 2000 Sydney Games despite being ranked as ninth seed.

“Everyone said we didn’t have a chance, but we walked away victorious with that medal,” Blanton said after he held up his medal to the audience and passed it to superintendent Diana Rigby. “Anything is possible. Just be focused and make sure you push ahead and give yourself that opportunity.” 

About Dain Blanton 

Dain Blanton was the United States’ first two-time male beach volleyball Olympian. He and partner Eric Fonoimoana captured the gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Games despite being the ninth seed. 

Earlier, Blanton made a name for himself in the world of beach volleyball when he became the first African American to win a major beach volleyball title when he won the Hermosa Beach Grand Slam in 1997. 

Since becoming an Olympic Gold Medalist, Blanton has had a distinguished career as a sports broadcaster, covering sports for networks including ESPN, NBC, ABC, FOX Sports Net and more. He covered beach volleyball for NBC at the 2016 Olympics and is slated to be a commentator at the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo. 

In 2021, Blanton led the USC women’s beach volleyball team to win the NCAA national championship. 

Blanton has spent time mentoring students and is a motivational speaker in schools like Carpinteria High School. As a spokesperson for Get Focused…Stay Focused!®, Blanton guides students in schools around the nation through a life- and career-planning process with a series of inspiring videos. 

About Get Focused…Stay Focused!® 

Watch this video to learn more about the impact of the Get Focused…Stay Focused!® program on schools with Dain Blanton: 

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