The next generation of Yukon Millers are ready to enter the world and make their mark.
In front of a standing room only crowd in Miller Stadium, the Class of 2022 received their diplomas, along with encouraging words about being kind to others and taking pride in their accomplishments.
“You have persevered through several crazy years,” High School Principal Melissa Barlow said. “You have survived and thrived.
But yet, you just haven’t made it through, you’ve thrived, and you’ve excelled. As you leave YHS and transition into the next chapter of your life, I want to encourage you to be kind. Be kind to those around you. Those that believe in you and those that don’t. But be kind.
“Class of 2022, you deserve to be in the arena during the hard times. Through the critiques and the triumphs. And when you are in the arena, be kind to those around you. Don’t let unkind words fill your thoughts. The world is counting on you to make a difference. The future depends on you, and most importantly, I am counting on you.”
A total of 616 graduates were adorned in black robes, red robes and the highly treasured white robes. Kinley De Leon, speaking for the class valedictorians, highlighted confidence and kindness. She spoke about the priorities in her life, dating back to a conversation in the eighth grade.
“My classmate was talking about how disappointed they would be if they didn’t get to wear a white robe on graduation day,” De Leon said. “I responded with a shrug, saying, ‘I just hope when people think of me, they will say I was a good person. I don’t really care about the robe color.’
“My classmate looked at me, gave me a weird look and said, ‘So you care more about what people think of you than being valedictorian?’”
De Leon said she can say it’s more important to judge a person by their character rather than the color of their robe, and years from now, people would be judged on how kind they were rather than their academic standing.
“So, with that in mind, be kind,” she said. “Even when people don’t pay you the same respect.”
In terms of confidence, De Leon told her classmate there would always be someone out there who would doubt them, belittle them and make them feel small.
“Don’t let that someone be yourself,” she said. “You are capable of huge things if you just have the confidence to go for them.”
Commencement ceremonies began with the Yukon High School band performing the processional. The Yukon Police Department Honor Guard presented the colors for the national anthem.
The first student to address her fellow graduates was Abigail Joseph, the class president. Joseph asked her fellow students to look into the future as they gathered together for a reunion.
“If you could go back 20 years to your high school graduation, would you,” Joseph asked. “Would you go back and thank your family, friends and teachers for everything that you didn’t appreciate then? Would you go back and change those 20 years, to experience everything, to chase your ambitions and tell yourself that you can and will do everything you put your mind to?”
In drawing graduates back to the present, she once again asked them if they would thank the special people in their lives and chase their ambitions. She told the class to not only reminisce about high school but also look toward the future.
“I hope this isn’t the biggest moment of your life,” Joseph said. “I hope it is the beginning of a great journey ahead because you will have bigger and better moments than this.”
Also participating in the commencement ceremonies was the YHS vocal jazz ensemble, which performed the Beatles hit, “In my Life.”
Student council president Alisyn Dunn provided words of advice to the graduates, focusing on the word, “enlightened.”
“I feel this word describes our school year, because I have experienced constant learning because of the things I am taught every day by my fellow graduates,” Dunn said. “Well, of course, I have learned about various things throughout the year by my teachers in high school, (but) the real learning I received has come from the Class of 2022.”
Examples of the lessons included celebrating yourself and what you have accomplished and there will always be room for more friends as graduates start a new chapter, she said.
“To the Class of 2022, thank you for enlightening me through all of our years together,” Dunn said. “You all have changed my life for the best and I can genuinely say that I wouldn’t have wanted to do it with anyone else. You all have incredibly bright futures ahead and I cannot wait to hear all about them at reunions.”
Diplomas were handed out by members of the school board prior to red and white streamers filling the sky. Many students took time to set their phones up against chairs to record the moment for posterity’s sake.
Dr. Jason Simeroth provided some words of advice before the awarding of diplomas.
He told graduates life is hard, but it’s also good when someone does it right and that they were off on the right foot.
As they took their next step in their lives, Simeroth told graduates to live in the moment but plan for the future. He also told them to be stubborn about their goals but be flexible in how they get there.
“Celebrate yourself but do like we are doing tonight,” Simeroth said. “Absolutely make time to celebrate each other, that’s very important in your lives.”
Following the commencement ceremony, many graduates traveled to the campus of Redlands Community College, where they celebrated the evening during Project Graduation.