Two hundred thirty Pirates set sail for their future Friday afternoon when Santa Ynez Valley Union High School held commencement ceremonies for the class of 2019, which Principal Mark Swanitz noted achieved a number of first-evers.

“This is your moment; soak it in,” Swanitz told the graduating students seated behind him in long rows on the field of Pirate Stadium. “This is the culmination of 13 years of education.”

Before the students, the grandstand was packed standing-room-only with families and friends gathered under a bright blue sky. Behind them, huge cumulus clouds towered over the San Rafael Mountains.

“Today is just the first of what will be many milestones in your lives, but this is a momentous one,” Swanitz told the class, adding they will be entering society “at a time when America desperately needs” their energy, creativity, skills and knowledge gained at SYVUHS.

“It’s now up to you to take these skills and apply them to making our country and the world a better place,” he said. “To all these people, you owe it to be the best versions of yourselves.”

Erinn Callaghan, the first of three student speakers, took the school’s Pirate mascot a step further by comparing life to a pirate ship, which may face rough seas and stormy weather.

“Always, though, there is someone upon the ship to raise the sails and steer it forward,” she said, referring to the student crew of Pirates as “kind, generous and hardy scalawags.”

“Our hearts have been sculpted into fine pieces of gold,” Callaghan said, urging classmates to give back to their community through volunteering and to define what it really means to be a Pirate.

“We’ve come to find here that if we are willing, we can accomplish anything we set our minds to,” she said.

Second student speaker Juan Sanchez gave a moving account of what it took to bring him to where he stood at that moment.

“Sixteen years ago, two Mexican immigrants from the state of Sinaloa” decided to leave behind their family, friends and everything they knew “to give their two children the opportunities they never had,” Sanchez said. “I will always be grateful for their sacrifices.”

He recalled how he was shy and always felt he should have been better at everything than he was, but sports helped him overcome that.

“Both my soccer and football coaches taught me … life is not fair … but never give up. … I would like to say thank you one more time to everyone who helped us all get here … .”

He added, “Although I’m moving on, I know that I will always be a Pirate.”

Final student speaker Lyndsey Hedrick talked about all the dreams of stardom she had when she was a young girl.

“I knew that one day, I would change the world,” she said, adding that her dreams changed as she grew older but she still had them.

“Reality finally caught up with me when I opened rejection letter after rejection letter,” Hedrick said, noting that facing rejection and dealing with it was a learning experience that taught her what makes a person’s life meaningful.

“It’s how we choose to move on … that is a measure of our worth,” she said. “We are all someone to somebody. … You are someone to anyone who has ever been touched by your small kindnesses.”

She credited family, teachers and staff as well as her fellow students for keeping her dreams alive.

“It’s because of you all that I know I can be someone,” she said. “It’s because of you all that I know I can change the world.”

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Graduates stand under soaring cumulus clouds during Santa Ynez Valley Union High School's commencement exercises Friday afternoon.

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News Editor

Mike Hodgson is news editor at the Santa Ynez Valley News, where he writes about local government, special events and the people who live in the Valley. He has been a photographer, writer, news editor and managing editor at weekly newspapers since 1972

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