Palo Alto Weekly

News - May 24, 2013

Palo Alto's graduations come early this year

Gunn, Paly plan formal commencement ceremonies Wednesday, May 29

Graduation festivities for Palo Alto's two public high schools will be held in May rather than June this year, possibly for the first time ever.

Gunn and Palo Alto high schools will host formal ceremonies on campus Wednesday, May 29, at 6 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. respectively.

The earlier time frame is due to a shift in the Palo Alto Unified School District's academic calendar, which moved the school year to an earlier start in August in order to squeeze in the full first semester before the December holidays.

The last day of school this year for all students except seniors is May 30. Last year it was June 7.

Three Paly seniors were chosen to be graduation speakers after auditioning Tuesday before a faculty panel. Students were asked to spend three to five minutes sharing "a story that reveals your unique experience at Paly or in the (school district) and perhaps a thought or insight you will take with you."

Preceding Paly's graduation will be a baccalaureate ceremony Sunday, May 26. Though traditionally held at Stanford University's Memorial Auditorium, the event has been moved this year to Flint Center for the Performing Arts in Cupertino to accommodate the crowd, said Paly Student Activities Director and Japanese teacher Matt Hall.

Main baccalaureate speakers will be senior class president Michael Wang and Stanford head football coach David Shaw.

On Tuesday, May 28, Paly seniors will board buses and leave campus for the traditional all-day senior picnic.

Gunn's baccalaureate ceremony was held Sunday, May 19, and featured a large cast of student musicians and artists as well as speeches by students Doron Kopelman, Derek Lee and Andrew Mell.

Gunn students, like their Paly counterparts, will board buses for an all-day senior picnic Tuesday, May 28, at an undisclosed location.

Following Wednesday's graduation ceremonies at both schools, grads will head for grad night parties. Buses are scheduled to return to Paly Thursday, May 30, at 2:30 a.m. and to Gunn at 3:30 a.m.

When buses return to Gunn, parent volunteers will host and provide hot drinks at a "firepit reception" to give students "extra time ... to wind down and spend additional moments with their friends in a different atmosphere," according to organizers.

Paly grad-night organizers, a committee of parent volunteers, solicited donations to a scholarship fund to raise money for confidential scholarships for the senior picnic and grad-night party, which together were priced at an early-bird price of $215. At Gunn, two parents offered to underwrite any remaining unfunded scholarship needs so needs of all requesting assistance could be met.

— Chris Kenrick

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