Palo Alto High School celebrates Class of 2012 | June 8, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - June 8, 2012

Palo Alto High School celebrates Class of 2012

Graduates recall during Wednesday ceremony the humor of teachers and life lessons learned

by Bryce Druzin

Around 3,500 family and friends watched and cheered as more than 450 green-and-white-clad seniors graduated from Palo Alto High School Wednesday evening, June 6.

"It's bittersweet for me," said English teacher Mike McNulty, who has taught for 20 years. "You're real happy to see kids you had move on, but at the same time you're sad because you may never see some of them again."

Principal Phil Winston made opening remarks, but the ceremony was dominated by student speakers and performers.

Student body president Uma Veerappan, who received the Viking Award for outstanding student leadership, highlighted individual students for their cultural awareness, social activism and athletic achievements.

She also injected a humorous anecdote about Spanish teacher Josep Vericat.

"He once told a student who was studying for another class in our Spanish period, 'Cierra tu libro antes de que cierro tu vida,' which in ... English translates to 'Close your book before I close your life,'" she said. "Thank you, Señor Vericat, for being such a humorous disciplinarian."

Senior Emilee Osagiede, who auditioned and was chosen to speak by school staff, titled her talk, "Keep Fighting." She opened with a quote from Dr. Seuss: "Congratulations, today is your day, you're off to great places, you're off and away."

She said she turned to the author to help her with bad childhood experiences.

"I was in a dark and scary place; I was lonely and lost," she said. "I needed something; I needed anything to bring me out of that hole."

Osagiede said the quote's reference to future rather than past achievements emphasizes the values of perseverance and hard work. She said people who have experienced child abuse, the death of a parent and living in foster care can be successful.

"If you keep pushing and you keep fighting, you can do marvelous things," she said. "Even for the girls and boys who have the odds stacked up against them."

Lindsay Black provoked a playful reaction from principal Winston when she approached the stage while he was introducing her.

"You're walking up here already, girl?" Winston said. "What are you doing to me?"

Black sung "What A Wonderful World," receiving some of the louder applause of the evening.

"I'm hoping she'll go and use her ... God-given abilities. She's a smart girl," said her grandmother Auressia Black, who noted that Lindsay is headed to Howard University. "Whatever it is, as long as it's productive."

Palo Alto Unified School District board member Dana Tom formally accepted the class of 2012 from Winston and handed out the diplomas.

Tom's son, Skyler, was among the graduates.

"Every time I think of my son graduating, I shake my head in disbelief," Tom said. "Kids grow up in the blink of any eye."

Following tradition, male students wore green caps and gowns while female students wore white. Many adorned their caps with the logos of the universities they will be attending next year.

Adam Young plans on studying screenwriting and hopes to transfer to San Jose State University after attending Foothill College. He told the Weekly he was surprised with how quickly high school went by.

"Freshman year I thought I'd never get out of here," he said, "but by senior year it felt like by a snap of my fingers I was done."

Mark Nishimura will be attending Stanford University and credited Ronald Pruzan with sparking his interest in chemistry. He said he discovered the types of people he likes to hang out with during his time at Paly.

"No matter how we measure intelligence, everyone here has something about them that's amazing," he said.

Rachelle Bains said she had to deal with deaths and health issues throughout high school and struggled to meet graduation requirements.

"I've gotten a lot of support from staff at Paly," she said. "They made it easier."

She said she's still waiting to hear from Loyola Marymount University, where she wants to study business management.

Mary Colbert of Petaluma came to see the graduation of a family friend and favorably compared the level of student involvement to that of her own daughter's recent graduation.

"I've been to 80,000 high school graduations in the last two years," Colbert joked. "By far this is the most stellar and inspiring and really celebratory about the students," she said.

Editorial Intern Bryce Druzin can be emailed a


Posted by ES, a resident of Southgate
on Jun 7, 2012 at 11:03 am

These young adults are absolutely amazing! Cheers to the Paly class of 2012.

Posted by Paly parent , a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 7, 2012 at 11:06 am

This was the 4th Paly graduation I attended, and it was the longest by about 45 minutes (close to 2 1/2 hours). The people reading names took entirely too long. It got to the point where others in my row were clocking the reading and calculating how long it would take to get through all of the graduates. Some of the announcers sounded like they were trying out for a pro wrestling job.

Also -- five speeches from students? One was nearly 10 minutes long, and was not very interesting. I enjoyed Osagiede's but the rest were forgettable. Disappointing after some of the great speeches I heard in previous graduations.

I hope future ceremonies are managed better, especially if I have to be there again.

Posted by anon, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 7, 2012 at 11:51 am

Paly parent, don't be like this. The graduation ceremony is for the graduating class of 2012, not for you. I'm surprised you're so self-centered that you're complaining about the length of a ceremony that many of my peers and I loved.

Posted by Another PP, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 7, 2012 at 11:58 am


Yes, this is going to get worse as a result of over-enrollment and mega high schools.

I know of one graduating senior (not this year) who wasn't prepared to sit in the hot sun and didn't bother going. I also know that for my first graduate, I wasn't able to even see the parade, hear my child's name because of the noise from the previous student's family, or get a picture of the "walk" across. As for not being able to find anywhere to sit for the couple of hours and had to stand the whole time. Can't imagine what it will be like next time with an even bigger class.

Perhaps two ceremonies, a - l and m - z?

Posted by Student, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 7, 2012 at 1:46 pm

Only in Palo Alto would parents complain about such petty things. Ultimately, graduation is for the students. If you have so many issues with it, don't go. It takes a lot of courage to speak to that large a crowd and saying that student speeches were "forgettable" is very hurtful. The graduates had a wonderful ceremony and a very well planned and executed party. Please don't put a damper on our celebration with your endless complaining about every little thing.

Posted by ES, a resident of Southgate
on Jun 8, 2012 at 10:17 am

To the complainers above - you all need to lighten up. The speeches were terrific! The mood was great. I guess if you want to see the bad side of things you will find a way.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 8, 2012 at 11:40 am

Wow PP. You do realize that the students crafted the agenda, selected the speeches, singers, etc. themselves? The announcers were students BTW.

455 people is a lot to process. Bring a book or browse the Internet on your smart phone next time.

Posted by Another PP, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 8, 2012 at 11:53 am

Although I am not trying to be negative in my comments, and I am sure that PP isn't trying to take anything away from any of those taking part, it is worth discussing how the graduation ceremony could be improved.

As our schools get bigger, there will be many, many problems like these to work through. Do we really want a couple of hours of names being read when the names are not familiar to even all the students? Do we want 3 hour ceremonies without enough seats for the invited guests of the students? Is there a better way of doing this?

And yes, it is for the students, but it is for the families also!

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