As the sun set on their high school years, the Maricopa High School Class of 2022 graduated Thursday night.
Family and friends gathered to watch more than 620 graduates wearing red caps and gowns accept their diplomas on a 93-degree night at Ram Stadium.
After the senior procession, the Air Force JROTC Color Guard presented colors and the Maricopa High School Band played the National Anthem.
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Lluvia Juárez-Luna, president of the student body, delivered the welcome address, and senior class president Angie Loera Flores introduced the night’s speakers.
In her keynote address Dr. Tracy Lopeman, superintendent of the Maricopa Unified School District, said the Class of 2022 deserves respect and admiration for overcoming many challenges.
“Over the last four years, you have watched our city, our state, and the entire world change around you in dramatic fashion,” she said. “Amidst the changes, you developed skills and confidence to toggle between digital and face-to-face and back again with ease. We in education thought we knew what a 21st century learner was. And then the unforeseen circumstances in our families, schools and world produced you. You are 21st-century learners 2.0.
“You can navigate uncertainty and move with agility to achieve your goals. People my age, like your grandparents, just watch in amazement. Our hats off to you.”
Valedictorian Justine Sanchez Mora told her fellow graduates that commencement represented the first chapter of many books in life.
“But as much as we rejoice in the accomplishment of today, it is a bittersweet feeling,” Sanchez Mora said. “I almost wish that it was not over since it means leaving behind excellent teachers and wonderful friends who I hold so dearly in my heart. So, on behalf of the class of 2022, thank you to the amazing teachers, administrators, MUSD20 staff, security guards, cafeteria staff, custodians, friends, and parents for being here, not just today, but for the past four years of our high school experience.”
Sanchez Mora implored her classmates to chase their seemingly impossible dreams, even though they might fail. Hard work mitigates the risk, she said.
“My fellow students,” she added, “I cannot emphasize this enough: work hard. Stop wasting time. Do not live with regret, it is not too late to readjust the lens you have on life. Define your success. Work towards that grand dream.”
Salutatorian Lexie Nordhoff agreed that life is beginning anew for her classmates.
“The nice thing about high school is that it happens when we’re young,” she said. “We’ve had time to make mistake after mistake, and we’ve had time to learn from those mistakes. You may feel like your story is coming to an end, and honestly, at times I feel the same way.
“It is important to remember that your story is just starting,” she continued. “Every person here tonight has lived a completely different life, and has overcome entirely unique obstacles, but we all share in this moment. Whether you feel like you have accomplished everything you ever wanted, or like you have done absolutely nothing, you have, in fact, done something incredible. You have graduated high school, and you have done it in the midst of a pandemic. You have persevered through unimaginable obstacles, and you should be proud of that.”
Lopeman told the graduates to appreciate the moment – now and forever.
“Take a moment, look around, and remember how this feels,” she said. “Let this feeling be your motivation to make the right choices that get you to the next milestone.
“And think, this is only the beginning,” she continued. “As you make your way down exciting new paths, I hope, every once in a while, you will look back to where you started. From a distance, your home and school will look different. Then again, so will you. Remember, you have lived and grown in a community that cares deeply about you.
“And we always will.”