The Laguna Beach High School Class of 2021 took a victory lap Wednesday after more than a year of Zoom classes and canceled high school milestones.
About 240 Laguna Beach High School seniors paraded from Laguna Beach City Hall to Main Beach to celebrate their imminent graduation, which is set for Thursday evening at Guyer Field.
Family, friends, and community members waived signs and enlarged photos as the students walked down Ocean Avenue, escorted by Laguna Beach police vehicles. The scene at Beach Street and Ocean Avenue was pandemonium with a cloud of bubbles and parents lining the sidewalks to get a video of their graduates.
Zinc Cafe and Wild Taco diners even took a break from their meals to cheer as the parade passed by their tables. Police employees temporarily stopped Coast Highway traffic at Ocean Avenue so revelers could cross safely.
More than 1,000 people gathered to take photos of a celebratory cap toss at the Main Beach lifeguard tower. Sand volleyball players took a break from their games to clap for the seniors.
“I’m really optimistic because everything has turned out how we expected as things are opening up,” 17-year-old Shelby Thomas said. “Honestly, we’ve grown a lot through the pandemic.”
Showing up at Main Beach together provided a sense of normalcy to the graduating class, Thomas said.
“It’s finally what we envisioned for once,” she said. “It’s just the perfect ending of this high school experience.”
Laguna Beach seniors have accomplished a lot despite the pandemic’s circumstances, said 18-year-old Jared Moy, adding the Main Beach gathering felt like “a pretty momentous occasion.”
“I’m looking forward to having more freedom and time that’s not restricted by school,” Moy said when asked about his summer plans. He’s also set to attend Cal State Fullerton this fall.
Even though California’s economy is on track to fully reopen June 15, school district officials only distributed four tickets per graduate for Thursday’s ceremony. Masks were required and guests were asked to follow social distancing guidelines at all times.
Wednesday’s parade was a much more relaxed, grassroots event. Many attendees stood shoulder to shoulder without masks—a clear sign Laguna Beach residents’ wariness of COVID-19 has subsided in the wake of mass vaccinations.
“The LBHS faculty and staff have been continuously amazed at the resiliency and adaptability that our students have shown,” high school principal Jason Allemann said in a press release. “We are all excited to honor the class of 2021 after a unique and challenging school year.”
Supt. Jason Viloria said in a press release that he’s honored to stand alongside the Class of 2021 as the Laguna Beach school community acknowledges and commemorates the graduates’ resilience, perseverance, accomplishments, and successes.
“This class has spent the majority of their upper-class experience navigating through a global pandemic,” Viloria said. “Their tenacity and resilience inspire us all to take ownership of our successes and to remember that in the words of Roy T. Bennett, ‘challenge and adversity are meant to help you know who you are. Storms hit your weakness, but unlock your true strength.’”