Graduates Share a Final Experience

Cyanna Atkinson will attend UC Berkeley in the fall. Photos by Mitch Ridder
Cyanna Atkinson will attend UC Berkeley in the fall. Photos by Mitch Ridder

The Irvine Bowl at the Festival of Arts grounds was filled to the brim last week when parents, other family members and friends turned out to watch 256 seniors graduate from high school.

The sky sparkled with stars, the temperature was mild, rare at the bowl even later in the summer. The high school band, directed by Jeremy Chung, set a traditional mood with “Pomp and Circumstance,” the graduation march composed by Edward Elgar. The most hoots and hollers, even the bleat of a bullhorn, came from the crowd standing in the nosebleed section. Assistant high school principal Bob Billinger served as a very professional-sounding master of ceremonies.

Joanne Culverhouse, high school principal for the past three years, has watched most of the graduates grow since their first day of school as she rose in the school district’s administrative ranks. She started with the district as El Morro Elementary principal in 1999. She became principal at Thurston Middle School five years later, where she made it a point to greet every child as they arrived at school. An avid cyclist, she’s gained notoriety with her students for her ability to ride a unicycle, and has been known to cruise around on one at school events.

“My thoughts come back to the unique bond I have with this class of 2014,” Culverhouse said in her closing speech with a voice clearly stretched from end-of-school activities. “In a small community such as ours, there are very few principals who have had the good fortune to transition with their students from grade level to grade level.”

Valedictorian Rory Saunders will enroll at Dartmouth College in Hanover, Mass.
Valedictorian Rory Saunders will enroll at Dartmouth College in Hanover, Mass.

Rory Saunders, class valedictorian, kept the mood of the evening buoyant and yet somewhat serious. “You are about to graduate from Laguna Beach High School, the greatest high school in all of Laguna Beach,” Saunders joked about the only high school in town. He then acknowledged Billinger, describing him as “our kind and understanding disciplinarian…not.”

The crowd was in for a few more barbs and plenty of laughs courtesy of Saunders. He even threw out a few innuendos, leaving those not-in-the-know wondering if he was a bit bitter about being dissed by a former girlfriend. He then brought his slightly off-key tenor down to reality.

“My goal tonight is to get through this lengthy speech without a voice-crack, but, as many of you know, I hit puberty late last year. I’m not going to make any promises,” he said. “I don’t consider myself particularly profound nor particularly experienced. Yes, my GPA was narrowly higher than all the guys on the tennis team, but I’m not going to pretend to be some prophet who will shape your life with a moving speech.”

Saunders said he thought about writing a speech that would “plumb the depths of the human condition to inspire all of you,” but took the more humble approach of just being another high-schooler “who has absolutely no idea what life is about….

Soon to be graduates listening to Principal Joanne Culverhouse for a final time.
Soon to be graduates listening to Principal Joanne Culverhouse for a final time.

“To be a member of this class has been enlightening, frustrating and everything in between. The ups and downs and lefts and rights of high school jarred me, shocked me and ultimately matured me. In sum, the last four years have been quite a ride. I’m glad to have shared this experience with the extraordinary young men and women sitting in front of me.”

Jim Garvey, Spanish teacher, English language development teacher and boys’ JV basketball coach, gave the Graduate Address, and was clearly emotional.

“As the students are graduating this year, so are two beloved friends and colleagues of mine.” Garvey noted retiring teachers Rod Ortiz, who is leaving the district after 27 years, and Joanie McKnight, who is taking an early retirement and continuing with a lawsuit, alleging unfair treatment by administrators. Our school is losing over 70 years of experience between the two of them….I love you guys,” he said, choking back tears.

He continued by thanking his students for “picking me up and helping me through the loss of my mom and her illness through the month of March.” A photo of Garvey with his mom at his college graduation was projected behind him. He then told the students to follow four lines in a rope:

G: Give of yourself.

A: attitude over aptitude.

I: initiative; it won’t go unnoticed.

L: Love; “Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

His mother’s name was Gail.

Culverhouse concluded by using doors as a metaphor, recalling how she opened classroom doors and car doors for each of her students over the years. “Our shared experiences allowed me to see into many of your hearts and, many, into your minds. You have grown into the caring and compassionate individuals who now sit before me. You learned the lessons well in elementary and middle school: always share, play well with others and treat everyone with kindness.”

The 2014 graduates are:

Abarca, Johana

Abney, Allison

Adams, Joshua

Adams, Anna Marie

Allan, Ava

Alter, Ashlyn

Armstrong, Dana

Arredondo, Camille

Askaryar, Aria

Atherton, Rian

Atkinson, Cyanna

Baptista, Christopher

Barker, Emma

Barkley, Rufus

Barnes, Courtney

Barnes, Clayton

Baskevitch, Kayla

Bekken, Zachary

Bell, Britten

Berri, Mariam

Black, Stephen

Blanco, Briona

Blanton, Noah

Blaser, Bridget

Blue, Dreeana

Bo, Nina *

Bonetti, Kevin

Borkovec, Cara

Broomer, Charlotte

Brown, Max

Budroe, Brielle

Bunting, Jessie

Burk, Garrett

Burnett, Haleigh

Cant, Lola

Capobianco, Lucas

Castillo Alonso, Maria

Cavanaugh, Megan

Cham, Tristan

Chamsi, Christopher

Chiocchetti, Greta

Christie, Drew

Church, Jonathon

Cirignani, Nicole

Clancy, Veronica

Clark, Zoe

Cockrell, James

Cogan, Rylynn

Coinon, Savannah

Colburn, Nathaniel

Collins, Trevor

Connor, Lucas

Cosby Braselle, Clay

Crivello, Gabrielle

Cunningham, Sean

Curras, Eric

Curtis, Audrey

Davia, Anthony

Davidson, Taylor

De La Rosa, Andres

Delgado, Armando

Demilly Otteson, Nadia

dePfyffer, Cameron

Dial, Amanda

Dixon, Kimberley

Doiron, Nicole

Donahie, Paul Michel

Donavan, Spencer

DuAmarell, Philip

Duncan, Jamie

Duong, Alexander

Farnes, Emily

Feldman, Michael

Feldman, Alexander

Ferguson, Caris

Flores, Yujin

Freeman, Traer

French, Joshua

Gallegos, Giovanna

Gallo, Joseph

Galmiche, Ines

Gauthier, Colin

Glazer, Ashleigh

Glick, Danielle

Goson, Josie

Gossett, Andrea

Grams, Kailey

GrandPre, Preston

Graves, LG

Green, Jared

Greenwood, Paige

Gromet, Danielle

Grosher, Marlee

Guido, Elizabeth

Guthrie, Makena

Haines, Kyle

Haines, Carly

Hall-Byrne, Holly

Hampton, Sean

Harrington, Stormy

Harrison, Steven

Hartman, Jordan

Hayes, Alexandra

Hays, Mia

Heitmann, Anna

Henderson, Hunter

Hendrickson, Jamie

Hexberg, Jakob

Hinmon, Veronica

Hockaday, Bridget

Hopper, Tessa

Howell, Clair

Howie, Madeline

Huffer, Brian

Humphries, Kyra

Hunt, Nicole

Ibelle, Codey

Jackson, Victoria

Jensen, Katherine

Johnson, Brooks

Jones, Matthew

Jones, Conner

Kahlon, Vickram

Kaplan, Katie

Karpinski, Christopher

Keces, Maya

Kent, Megan

Killian, Claire

Kirkbride, Lauren

Kluver, Zachary

Knott, Jenna

Koprowski, Casiano

Krafka, Avery

Kravitz, Nathan

Kruger, Samantha

Kunkel, Jacob

La Tendresse, Cody

Ladislao Ramirez, Vincent

Lancaster, Nathan

Landsiedel, Andrew

Lange, Gabrielle

Larsen, Anika

Law, Anna

Lee, Jennifer

Levinstein, Adam

Lindsay, Alexandra

Long, Morgan

Ludloff, Bryan

Markman, Nicolas

Martin, Hannah

Martin, Alexander

Martin, Mia

Martin, Dogen

Martinez, Keaton

Martinez, Jacqueline

McCombs, Connor

McCullough, Alexis

McMahon, Jacqueline

McMillan, Spencer

McQueen, Caitlin

Meier, Nicholas

Metez, Tyler

Michaels, Brooke

Miller, Anya

Miller, Elizabeth

Moore, Tatum

Mooshian, Carly

Murray, Nicole

Myhan, Michael

Nederlander, Sarah

Needham, Justin

Nguyen, Timothy

Nielson, Perry

Nunis, Richard

Oberndorf, Sarah

O’Brien, Caitlin

Papa, Eric

Patchell, Jordan

Pattillo, Noah

Paul, Shikira

Pike, Kailar

Pitz, Makenna

Potter, Jasper

Quigley, Hailey

Rackemann Smith, Ryan

Radach, Noah

Rand Luby, Cameron

Rhyner, Jake

Ring, Ian

Robison, Savannah

Rodriguez, Audrey

Rogers, Preston

Romatoski, Taylor

Romero, Eliza

Ross, Sara

Ross, David

Rubow, Alexandra

Rydstrom, Wyatt

Saadatkhah, Nasim

Salvini, Gian

Sanders, Sydney

Sandler, Sarah

Santana, Michael

Sarhad, Brandon

Sasaki, Kevin

Saunders, Rory Scharf, Marielle

Seebass, Vann

Segall, Alexzandra

Shin, Isaiah

Shoemaker, Brock

Siegrist, Sean

Siegrist, Erik

Slater, Marisa

Sofferman, Michael

Spitz, Jeffrey

Spring, Taylor

Stalker, Hannah

Stiles, Charlotte

Strickland, Sarina

Sullivan, Ryan

Summerour, Caroline

Sweet, Nathan

Tat, Stephanie

Tellez, Christopher

Thomas, Troy

Thornton, Barrett

Thornton, Kira

Tomczak, Danielle

Toro, Paige

Trefethen, William

Vera, Liliana

Von Schimpf, Karl

Walker, Ethan

Wallin, Jane

Wang, Iris

Webb, Abigail

West, Daniel

White, Monica

Wilhelm, Grant

Willhoft, Austin

Wilson, Matthew

Winson, Darby

Wisbaum, Mandi

Wogulis, Samuel

Wold, Katie

Wollam, John Paul

Wong, Garrett

Woods, Madeline

Wulff, Alec

Wyett, Jack

Yang, Shawna

Yarchever, Sierra

Zarate, Stephannie

Zarrabi, Sharlene

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  1. I loved Rory Saunders’ speech. His combination of wit and humor, with just enough sincerity, was one of the best speeches I’ve heard at the dozen or so graduations I’ve attended. Congratulations.


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