Graduation 2023-Article and Videos
After a decent amount of weather-related concern, the highly anticipated WHS Class of 2023 Graduation on the new turf field went off without a hitch albeit 30 minutes early to ensure the ceremony was over before the rain started!
“Guys we made it!” Class President Jean Galletti kicked off the festivities by posing a very important question to his classmates, ”When did we all stop believing in monsters? The fear of not being able to see the road ahead has been weighing on me. I thought I was settled on becoming a teacher, because that felt safe, but tonight I wanted to share with you that I am going to pursue theater. I arrived at this decision by asking myself, ‘What would my grandmother do?’” He shared some details about her not always easy, but very brave decisions and closed his remarks with some sound advice, “Things will always work out if you are brave, follow your heart, and do what you want to do.Walk into the unknown with your head held high. Don’t settle for less! Give yourself a chance to pursue what you love.”
Principal Keith Schenker stepped up to the podium, welcomed the audience to the 59th Westlake graduation ceremony, and thanked everyone at WHS and beyond who had made this amazing night a reality
“This is the 21st year that I have given a graduation speech. Let me start by telling you that you are well prepared for the future, but please pay attention, because there will be a quiz at the end of this speech!” He continued, “I didn’t use ChatGBT to write this speech, but I was tempted. As I am sure you are aware, there is an ongoing debate among adults about who had it harder, kids now or their predecessors? The more things change the more they stay the same. Social media makes things complicated…”
Mr. Schenker used the movie “The Matrix” to frame the rest of his speech, complete with his infamous props - a red and blue pill! “How do we find meaning in a complex life? It all begins with a simple choice - will you swallow the red or blue pill?” He closed by saying. “America allows us to forge our own path, but you need to take that first step. Congratulations Class of 2023!”
Board of Education President (and father and uncle of members of the Class of 2023!) said, “Todays a milestone! You’re about to leave the halls of Westlake behind. I am filled with heartfelt admiration and pride in your hard work, dedication, and perseverance. It has been a pleasure to witness your teamwork, collaboration, empathy, and how you faced challenges head on through your educational journey. This is not the end but the beginning. The world you are entering may seem complex, but you are well equipped.” He left the graduates with some inspiring words of advice, “Embrace diversity. Embrace challenges. Turn setbacks into stepping stones. Never underestimate the power of kindness and compassion. Extend a hand, lend your voice, empower and lift up those around you. Let your dreams guide you and may your journey be filled with joy, success and endless possibilities.”
“Wow guys we made it!” exclaimed Salutatorian Kendall Spearman when she reached the podium. “It feels like yesterday I was just sitting in the guidance thinking about how embarrassing it is to be salutatorian because you’re not the best, but you have to give a speech anyway.” Of course the audience and her classmates thought that was hysterical!
“Success is collaborative. Thank you parents! To my fellow graduates, I hope you find ways to create success, whatever that means to you and I hope you never forget the people who brought you there.”
The class selected retiring music teacher Carlo Capano to be the faculty speaker, and he did not disappoint, “Amazing! You had no idea what was coming when you entered WHS. I say you’re amazing because of hard work and perseverance. I encourage you to work hard, but take time for yourself - make time for yourself. Pressures will always be there, stress crescendos!” He went on to tell them a story about his favorite composer, “What can Beethoven teach us? No matter how busy you are, if you escape into nature to relax you can free your mind and stay refreshed. When you listen to Symphony number 6, I want you to think about the fact that music reflects feeling. This piece doesn’t tell a story, but reflects it. It is the awakening of cheerful feelings upon arrival at the countryside. The takeaway from this composition should be to give yourself the opportunity to unwind, reflect, and plan. This will give you the strength to face the best challenge.”
Great advice Mr. Capano!
Next Valedictorian Alejandro Gomez addressed the crowd, “iBuenas tardes! Thank you to my family, especially my mom. It’s easy to overlook the small things. I encourage you to craft a scrapbook in your mind and in the spontaneous small moments find importance. The road is long. Let us carry on and try to have fun in the meantime. My advice is to live in the moment, take charge, go out with no regrets, hold those you love close, and be the one that takes the chance.”
The final speaker of the afternoon was Dr. G, “Wildcats, as you embark upon this new chapter of your lives, let the lyrics of Van Halen's "Right Now" inspire you to embrace the urgency of the present moment, the hope that resides within you, the perseverance to overcome any obstacle, the courage to follow your dreams, and the belief in a brighter future. Today, you stand on the threshold of infinite possibilities. As you bid farewell to your high school years, it is my hope that your time at Westlake has given you the inspiration to ignite the flames of determination, resilience, and purpose. Step into the world with confidence, knowing that you have the power to make a difference.”
He concluded with some encouraging words and, as has become his tradition in graduation speeches throughout his career, by quoting the lyrics of a song “I wish you every success life has to offer. We’ll be rooting for you every step of the way! And in the words of Eddie Van Halen and Sammy Hagar:
‘Hey, it's your tomorrow
C'mon, it's everything
Catch that magic moment, and do it right, right now
It's what's happening- Right here and now
Tell me, what are you waiting for?’
Thank you all very much, and good luck to the Class of 2023 - the world is waiting for you.”