BY CHRISTIAN WHITTLE, SANTA BARBARA NEWS-PRESS
"Laguna is a rather small school, yet this allows it to feel less like a somewhat divided group of students, teachers, staff, and coaches. Instead, quite honestly, it feels like a family," said student class president Andrew Tolles '19 as he addressed the crowd at Laguna Blanca's 85th commencement ceremony on Wednesday, June 12.
Gathered in a small amphitheater surrounded by trees and loved ones, the graduates of Laguna Blanca's Class of 2019 celebrated their accomplishments with the amazing community that had been with them the whole journey.
The 39 students entered one by one as the Festival Brass Quintet performed "Pomp and Circumstance," sporting graduation caps decorated with the logos of colleges they will attend in the fall. Graduates will attend a range of prestigious universities, including UCLA, Berkeley, Johns Hopkins and Yale.
Over the course of the ceremony, the class and faculty demonstrated the unique community at Laguna Blanca. The intimate class sizes and quality faculty fills the school with deep and meaningful personal relationships.
While conducting exit interviews, Head of School Rob Hereford said he realized how highly the students thought of their teachers.
"The common theme that they shared was that their teachers made Laguna for them. Our graduates value the guidance, the mentoring, and even the friendships that they develop with their teachers, describing them with eloquence, respect, and affection. We are all fortunate to have this dedicated faculty working with and for our students every day," said Mr. Hereford.
The event was a celebration of the bond between teachers and students as much as it was of graduating high school. Teachers were honored with awards for excellence, given flowers as they prepared to leave the school, and were shown to be the heart and soul of the school.
Each year, students elect a faculty member that has deeply impacted their high school experience to speak at commencement. This year, science and mathematics teacher Erik Faust gave the address.
"He always inspires his students to want to be better. One of the things I think is really important is not just to be thinkers but to be better people," said Head of Upper School Lolli Lucas.
Mr. Faust poked fun at traditional graduation speeches that tell students to anticipate occasionally failing in life.
"What they will not tell you is that failing sucks. You will want to avoid it at all costs. It hurts. Likewise they will not tell that your destiny is a made up idea that they told you to comfort you. Your future is not written in the stars and it has not been preordained. No, you will have to write your own rules. You will have to go through more pain in order to grow and hopefully, after much time, you will become an even better version of yourself," Mr. Faust told the class.
The 2019 class at Laguna Blanca has already come a long way. This year there were two valedictorians, after Caitlin Gainey '19 and Julia Stone '19 achieved the same GPA. The class is full of filmmakers, athletes, physicists, painters, and activists. Students have researched at UCSB, worked with incarcerated youth, and displayed original art around the city.
"I for one can't imagine who I would be without these individuals," said Isabella Sabino '19, who was elected by the class to be this year's student speaker. "Our small community of parents and teachers has spent countless hours gifting us with an understanding of how the world works and now we have the tools and opportunity to go out into the larger global community and make it even better."