Graduates throwing hats in the air to celebrate
Meet the graduating class of 2022. (Katherine Martine)

Under a sizzling June sun, parents, teachers, family and friends celebrated the 117 students of the Healdsburg High School graduating class of 2022.

This is a class that not only has successfully completed years of schooling in order to move on to a new chapter, but has also weathered a tumultuous four years of floods, wildfires, power outages and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amid toasty temperatures of high to mid- 90s, the school’s 130th commencement ceremony was held on June 10 at 7pm at the Healdsburg High School turf field and was live streamed for folks viewing the festivities at home.

“I am extremely proud of the Class of 2022. They weathered through years of unimaginable tragedies. I have found the Class of ’22 to be innovative, kind, compassionate and overall leaders. I cannot wait to see where their lives unfold,” said Healdsburg High School principal Amy Jones-Kerr, who had to sit out the ceremony due to an unforeseen illness.

As attendees took their seats, the graduates—decked out in Hounds’ red caps and gowns—lined up to make their way onto the field. Many sported colorful leis around their necks, some wore sunglasses and others carried bottles of water and hand fans in an effort to ebb the heat.

Healdsburg High School art teacher Linus Lancaster kicked off the ceremony with a bagpipe processional followed by a rendition of “Pomp & Circumstance” by the Healdsburg High School band, which played in the background as the graduates made their way onto the field.

Since Jones-Kerr had to stay home, assistant principal Francisco Manriquez took her place in welcoming graduates and attendees.

“To our graduates, this is your time to shine and this is your moment,” Manriquez said.

Manriquez thanked the teachers, counselors and staff who’ve helped the students in reaching the milestone that is high school graduation. He also thanked the teacher of the year, Mike Domenichelli, who teaches physical education.

“Graduates, if I could leave you with one message to take home tonight, the message is to be grateful and thankful for what you have. Stop and think, ‘what do I have that others do not have in their life.’ I actually do have a few more messages for you to take home,” Manriquez said. 

“They are as follows: The people you know and the books you read are what make you successful. Don’t take things personal, get things in writing, ask for clarification. Words create emotion, so be mindful of what you say. If you fail, so what? Keep going.”

While the school does not select a valedictorian and salutatorian, it does select two student speakers.

The first student speaker was Isabella Garcia Figueroa. Figueroa thanked the class of 2022 and said as a freshman, she was shy, walking through the halls with her head down, but now she dances down those halls. 

“That’s the greatest lesson that high school taught me. I learned what it felt to feel sure in myself and my abilities, not in an arrogant way, but in a realistically secure way. 

Due to our students and staff, I now have the confidence to speak up. I went from the girl who never raised her hand in class to giving a speech at graduation,” Figueroa said.

She said her hope for her fellow graduates is that everyone will be content, content with waking up and looking in the mirror and feeling pleased with the reflection looking back. She reminded graduates to remember to feel proud, proud of everything they’ve overcome and deserving of all of the opportunities offered, and “when life hands you that lemon, grab it with satisfaction because you’re about to make the world’s best tasting lemonade.”

The second student speaker was Elizabeth Castro, who gave her speech, “Yes we can, we reached the end/ Si se puede, llegamos al fi,” in Spanish.

After Castro’s speech, graduating band members got up to join their bandmates one last time to play a rendition of “Celtic Air & Dance” by Michael Sweeney, conducted by John Natelli.

English teacher John Linker then provided the keynote address. Linker dedicated his speech to beloved science teacher and coach, Pat McDowell, who died in October at the age of 56 from complications from cardiac arrest. Linker also dedicated his speech to the Class of 2022 and to his father, who became deaf after contracting scarlet fever and had to drop out of high school.

After dropping out of high school, Linker’s father apprenticed his uncle, who was a plumber by trade. He watched his every move until he surpassed his uncle in knowledge of the trade by watching and asking questions. 

“He was impatient for life,” Linker said. “Of all the things my father taught me, the most important beyond perseverance, beyond following your heart, beyond a staunch work ethic, was to observe, was to pay attention.” 

Linker said if you want to be successful, throw the ear buds away, turn off your phone and pay attention. 

“The best training in life comes from simply being present. Paying attention fills your life with zest, with passion and with a sense of community,” he said.

Healdsburg High School counselor Ever Flores then conducted the presentation of graduates and students lined up  to receive their diplomas.

Once all of the diplomas were handed out and the cheering, whooping and clapping of attendees faded, Manriquez instructed the graduates to turn their tassels to the left side of their caps. The caps didn’t stay on much longer, as the graduates tossed their caps in the air, bringing the ceremony to a close.

Healdsburg Unified School District superintendent Chris Vanden Heuvel said of the Class of 2022, “They have lived through some crazy times, and to be able to celebrate them together is just awesome, and I’m so proud of how resilient they were.” 

Students festoon their graduation gowns in their own style. (Katherine Martine)
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