Berkeley High School (BHS) class of 2019, your time here has finally come to an end. I’m sure you’re excited to begin the next chapter of your lives and leave your high school years behind, but we won’t be forgetting you any time soon. Through your leadership, passion for social justice, and school pride, you’ve created an incredible legacy at BHS that sets you apart from those who came before and sets an example for those who will come after.
As early as your freshman year, you were involved in walkouts advocating for the rights of not only all BHS students, but of all people. Your kindness and compassion always outshone the hatred. It’s one thing to join movements, but it’s another to lead them, and in the days following Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing, you did exactly that. When many students felt lost, you stepped up and organized acts of protest to help students voice their opposition to his confirmation.
Your pride for being a part of the community has also been a defining aspect of your legacy. Your cheers on Red and Gold Day were so passionate that they could not be contained by the A-gate. You led the entire student body into Civic Center Park and onto the streets of Berkeley to celebrate your school pride. Few can say that our school was ever more unified than it was on that day. Your passion never dwindled over the course of your senior year, and you continued to show school pride when you helped put on the Spring Carnival for the entire school, uniting students across grades and small schools over alpacas and jumpy-houses, thus securing the event’s status as one of the latest additions to BHS’s long list of traditions.
Most of all, we will always remember you for the friendships we shared and the support you gave us as we transitioned into high school. You graced us with your presence and wisdom constantly. From your mandated math tutoring hours in the CCC to your guidance through our shared AP classes, you proved yourselves as natural leaders. We’ll never forget the times we’ve spent together, and we hope you won’t either.
Today you sit in Haas Pavilion as the first BHS graduating class to do so, a reflection of the way you often lead the way for progress and are never afraid to do what hasn’t been done before. The combination of your brilliance, spirit, and leadership will undeniably translate to success for you beyond BHS. We cannot wait to see how you use the knowledge you’ve gained during your time here to improve the rest of the world.
Where is the class of 2019 going to college?
Click on a plus to see which students are studying in that state[h5p id=”1″]
Communication Arts & Sciences Graduation
“You learn to love your classmates, each one of them, because they come together and make CAS special,” said Anthony Carter, a Communication Arts and Sciences (CAS) senior, during the first speech of the night. CAS is one of the small learning communities at Berkeley High School (BHS) with roughly 60 students per grade.
The seniors celebrated the closing of their time in CAS on Sunday, June 2, 2019, at Freight and Salvage. The event began at 5 PM with a dinner where students, teachers, and parents could talk and reminisce about the last four years. The ceremony began at 6 PM with speeches from a few select seniors.
The walking the stage portion of the evening began, and a photo of each graduate was displayed on a large screen on the stage. An audio recording of a CAS teacher talking about the student was then played over the photo. Each student had the opportunity to speak when they took the stage. Many of the students gave thanks — to their parents, to their teachers, to their classmates — and talked about how grateful they were to be surrounded by such unique people. Each teacher who spoke had thought out reflections on each student’s time in CAS. Aria Killebrew-Bruehl, a graduating senior, touched on the stereotypes of CAS and why CAS is so special to her. “Maybe they didn’t expect me to care so much about my education,” she said, referring to other students’ ideas on who someone in CAS should be. “We understand that there is more to education than grades and numbers. Things would’ve gotten pretty boring pretty fast if we were all homogenous people.”
The diverse student body of CAS was mentioned quite a few times throughout the night. Many students were very proud to share how they had learned from all the different personalities of their classmates. Not only did they say it allowed them to connect in ways that other small schools didn’t, but they mutually agreed that learning from each other helped them learn about themselves.
Following an intermission for dessert, co-founder of CAS and history teacher, Bill Pratt, gave a speech on his years as a CAS teacher. “It’s been a career highlight to have had the privilege to be your teacher,” he said. “We’re in it together, we have a sense of connection, love, and purpose,” Pratt said.
The night closed with announcing the two winners of the Kyle Harty Strang Spirit of CAS award. This award was given to students who embody the energy of CAS. The vibrance of the graduating class was evident throughout the night, leading to an emotional and special graduation.
Academic Choice Graduation
“Keep moving forward,” said senior speaker Aaryn Godfrey at the Berkeley High School (BHS) Academic Choice (AC) graduation on June 9, 2019, as she encouraged her classmates to look forward to the future.
Junior Leo Zurita set the stage by playing an arrangement of the traditional commencement piece “Pomp and Circumstance” on piano while all the AC seniors filed in and took their seats. The Masters of Ceremonies, Zev Marx-Kahn and Rafi Jimenez, introduced a short video answering the question: what’s the big deal about AC? The video featured many students highlighting the best aspects of the small school.
AC English teacher Madalyn Theodore followed the video with a speech in which she paid tribute to the class of 2019. She talked about how her students do multiple things, from jazz band to sports to academics. Theodore told the students to focus on the present, borrowing a famous quote: “Yesterday’s history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift. That’s why we call it the present.”
Next, seniors from Dance Production (DP) class performed a flamboyant and upbeat piece choreographed by Timothy Marston and Sophia Morbidelli. The piece was a mash-up of “Bad Romance,” “Hollaback Girl,” “Fergalicious,” and “Womanizer.” Marston ended the dance by doing an impressive death drop, making the audience go wild.
Student speaker Leo Gordon talked about his experience in AC. In his opinion, it was the best small school, since he was able to meet new people and make friends. Gordon said that now is the time when BHS students will have to make their own decisions. However, “[there is] no reason to be scared,” said Godfrey, because the last four years have prepared everyone for the future.
Before the students received their sashes, BHS’s acapella group, Hot Pitches, performed “Toxic.” Later, Vice Principal of AC, Tammy Rose, thanked all the teachers for their time and effort: “They work really hard” she said, closing the ceremony.
Rose is proud of the class of 2019’s “dedication to rigor” and how “when kids are asked to lead, they rise to the call.” She also thinks the large size of AC helps students in the future. “The world is big and it’s just kind of helping all of our kids once they leave our space how to be connected in big spaces,” she said.
Independent Studies Graduation
On May 29, 2019, Berkeley High School’s (BHS) Independent Study program (BIS) held their graduation ceremony in the Berkeley Technology Academy Multipurpose Room.
After enjoying a potluck and a period of mingling, students, parents, and teachers took their seats around the room. Heidi Weber, the principal of BIS, gave an introductory speech. Following her introduction, multiple graduating students performed songs and spoken word pieces.
The official ceremony began with the graduation of one fifth grader and one eighth grader, as the BIS program serves students in grades K-8 alongside their high school program. The teachers presented each senior with a BIS yearbook, a red rose, and an Independent Study sash.
When the official graduation ceremony finished, everyone in the room was asked to gather in one large circle to share one thing they were grateful for, and seniors were asked to share their plans for next year. Many parents, students, and faculty members spoke of the special community at BIS, especially surrounding the garden. Joy Moore, the staff gardening teacher, prompted the audience to take the student-made succulent plants, provided they “love and care for them deeply.”
“It’s scary to move on and start a new chapter of your life but also there are new opportunities, new beginnings, and a fresh start,” said Nishat Sheikh, a graduating senior. Sheikh expressed gratitude for all of the options BIS has given her over the years, especially those outside of the typical high school realm. During her time in BIS, Sheikh took multiple classes at Berkeley City College including astronomy and psychology. “Independent Studies really opened up a lot of new opportunities and facets for me that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to explore.”
Leo Lockhart, another graduating senior said, “I feel very nostalgic and also excited for the next chapter of my life.” After high school, Lockhart will attend Berkeley City College to pursue their associates degree in psychology before transferring to a four-year university. They are very glad to have been in the BIS program because they “feel really connected to everyone.” For Lockhart, this event provided closure and community bonding.
Heidi Weber, the BIS principal, expressed sadness over the students leaving but also pride and excitement for their future. This event for her is “A way to mark students moving and taking on new identities and having chances to thank people that they love.”
African American Studies Graduation
As photos from the past year are projected onto the screen of the Berkeley High School (BHS) Community Theater, music plays and conversations happen. Strangers and old friends mingle about awaiting the beginning of the ceremony. As the 2019 graduates entered the auditorium, John Borens played Nina Simone’s “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” on the piano. Then, Spencer Pritchard announced the new head of the African American (AFAM) Studies Department, the ash ceremony for the ancestors was held, and following that came the Negro National Anthem.
Many guest speakers including Superintendent Donald Evans and actor and activist Danny Glover took the stage and gave the graduating students their words of encouragement and praise.
Laelah Jackson gave a spectacular speech to the crowd as cheers of agreement filled the auditorium. “I don’t see sob stories, I see capable, dedicated, strong-willed people. I see people who have fought harder than most will have to.”
Her words resonate with every single person in the room. Jackson went on to say, “It is no surprise we are all graduating, no surprise we will accomplish our desires.” Her words warmed the hearts of family and friends watching their loved ones enter this new and forever changing life.
Following the impromptu teacher and staff shout-out came a praise dance performed by a trio of AFAM students. As the music began, the dancers took the stage as their own, the emotions were high and the audience was awed.
This year BHS will have to say goodbye to a legend; Naomi “Mama” Washington will be missed for years to come. Those who were lucky enough to call her classroom home will never forget the lessons of strength and determination she taught so often. Whether that be through dance or through speech, she has the attention of all.
Following many guest speakers and breaks came the long awaited “I stand on the shoulders of” and school announcement ceremony. Anyone who has attended the Black graduation before can remember the time when each student goes on stage and thanks their families for their love and support throughout their high school careers.
The graduates of 2019 will be attending a wide variety of schools such as San Francisco State University, Humboldt State University, University of Southern California, and many more. Two students will be joining the military this coming fall and some will be taking a gap year.
Guest speaker Glover gave everyone in the room a pep talk for the future. He reminded everyone of the trials and tribulations the Black community has faced and will continue to face. “Their will be doubt and despair, we will say ‘I can’t do it,’ but we just gotta do it.” Congratulations to the class of 2019!
On May 29 in the Berkeley High School (BHS) library, 29 Bridge cohort seniors, along with their friends and family, excitedly took their seats.
The 2019 Bridge cohort is comprised of 29 students, all students of color, who are primarily first generation college students and are from disadvantaged backgrounds, explained Sean Stevens, the Bridge cohort teacher leader. “Our goal with the Bridge program at BHS is to narrow the achievement gap and provide safe spaces for our students in such a large school,” said Stevens.
This year’s Bridge class has worked extremely hard to get to where they are now, with many of them going on to colleges, universities, and vocational schools to pursue their future dreams and careers. During their time at BHS, the Bridge students came every day for seventh period where they did homework, studied for standardized tests, worked on resumes and college applications, and felt heard in a place where students go unnoticed, said Stevens.
At the graduation, several student speakers shouted out special people from the school staff and volunteers who have mentored them throughout their high school experience, thanking them for helping them get to where they are now. In particular, staff from the College and Career Center were praised and thanked for their exemplary work these last few years.
One student speaker, Yanira Gabourel, spoke of the many obstacles she has had to overcome during her four years at BHS, and thanked her family, friends, BHS counseling staff, and the program because without these people she never would have made it.
Gabourel’s speech was followed by seven other of her Bridge classmates, who were all grateful and moved by their years as part of the Bridge family. Many of them spoke about the perks of being in Bridge, such as visiting colleges and going on meaningful retreats. Stevens gave a heartfelt speech about the group of students who he has known since freshman year. He said, “they went from squirrelly 14 year olds into young adults who are making moves toward their futures.”
Stevens hopes the Bridge cohort “retains the lessons that they have learned both from their successes, and also their failures,” and adds, “these kids have absolutely put their all into their school life and it shows in their dedication to their work, and the program.”
The graduation was a beautiful event that celebrated the triumphs of this year’s senior cohort, and all that they will accomplish in the years to come.
On June 7, 2019, friends, family, and teachers of the students graduating from the Multilingual Program (MLP), a small school at Berkeley High (BHS) that serves students whose first language is not English and have attended US public schools for fewer than six years, gathered at Berkeley Technology Academy for a night of celebration and dancing. The ceremony began at 6 PM with a potluck with a range of foods including pizza, chow mein, and watermelon agua fresca. Roughly 60 people attended the graduation and 18 students graduated.
Two types of graduation were celebrated at the ceremony, including those students that were transitioning out of the MLP and into mainstream classes at BHS, and those students who were going on to college next year. Currently, the MLP is comprised of students from 30 countries who speak 22 languages.
The English Language Development (ELD) four class helped kick off the festivities with performances of the skits they had written in their class that week. After the skits, the Specifically Designed Academic Instruction in English (SDAIE) teachers handed out awards to their students. A total of nine awards were given out, ranging from academic achievement, to most enthusiastic learner, to compassionate achiever. ELD teachers presented their students with the “Most Valued Player” award. These awards were given to one student per ELD class, and recognized those students who had demonstrated a strong work ethic, involvement in the ELD community, and leadership skills.
The awards were followed by a dance performance put on by the ELD one, two, three classes. The students danced to music from different cultures, changing their dance styles accordingly. The dances marked the transition into honoring those students that were graduating from the MLP and transitioning into mainstream classes. One of these students, Leo Benavides, expressed his gratitude for the support system of the MLP in his speech. “The teachers and staff unite to create a community of learning and fun,” Benavides said. Nine graduating students were in attendance, and each was handed a string of red beads and a yellow rose upon their graduation.
In her speech, a graduating senior Laiba Ghufran noted the community that had been fostered in the MLP. “Everyone understands and shares so much in common even though we are from different cultures,” Ghufran said. Each teacher also shared a brief comment for each senior that highlighted their qualities both as students, and as people. The ceremony closed with a video of pictures from the year and a dance party.
A common theme reflected by the cohort was the gratitude the students felt for the MLP program. Daniella Maaze Merschdorf, the MLP coordinator, called the students in the ELD program resilient and kind. “This is one of the best communities to be in,” she said of her experiences in the program thus far.
Chicanx Latinx Graduation
On June 1 of this year the St. Ambrose Church hosted Berkeley High School’s (BHS) Chicanx Latinx graduation. The event began with a communion in the front of the church where families exchanged hellos and stories, and students interacted and celebrated with one another. As the ceremony began, families found those they knew and the crowd filed into the beautiful church. The church had large, elegant stained glass and bibles on the seats, written in both Spanish and English. The feeling of community surrounded the families and students, all of whom were excited, contributing to the beauty and power of the ceremony. The opening remarks were delivered first in Spanish, then in English.
As the differing figures got up to give their benedictions to the graduating class, a theme became apparent. No matter who was speaking they did not fail to comment on how historically, and still very much so in today’s world, graduating and entering the world as educated Chicanx Latinx adults, what they were doing was no small feat. The speaker, a priest, talked about the rhetoric existing in today’s world about Chicanx Latinx peoples, and how impressed he was by those in front of him. “We need you,” he said. His messages and the speakers were broken up by performances from BHS’s own Mariachi band.
Initially, families, students, and those in attendance smiled in recognition of the beautiful songs expertly played by the band, and by the end of the service many were even singing along.
The diverse audience of families, students, and friends laughed, awed, and cried together as the priest and teacher speakers detailed the accomplishments and successes of those graduating.
The service ended with each student taking the stage and accepting a sash and diploma, as a message they wrote talking about their experience, gratitude, and plans for the future was read.
The entire evening ended in the BHS M-Building gym, where students gave spoken word and dance performances in celebration of their accomplishment, while their families, friends and peers cheered for all the had done, and all they will do.
Berkeley International High School Graduation
On June 7, Berkeley International High School (BIHS), one of Berkeley High School’s (BHS) small learning communities, celebrated their annual graduation ceremony at the Berkeley Community Theater. The event started with a reception, including everything from kebabs to cookies. Parents and students mingled while reminiscing about their memories of the last four years. As the audience started rolling into the theater, old pictures of BIHS graduates were played on the screen, eliciting a lot of laughter from parents and students alike. BIHS Vice Principal Carrie Berg started off the event by introducing the themes of the graduation: passion and perseverance. “You are a group that is not afraid to ask the hard questions, grapple with challenges, and push us all to be the best versions of ourselves,” said Berg. The emcees then introduced the first performers of the night, a student-run a capella group, The Hot Pitches. Their performance of “Toxic” by Britney Spears lit up the audience. In addition to singing, they also used choreography to really put on a full performance for the audience.
Peter Rodrigues, a beloved BIHS teacher, then played a game of “Stand Up If …” in which he would read a statement and graduates would stand up if it applied to them. “Stand up if you’ve ever felt supported by a friend or peer,” said Rodrigues. Almost all graduates stood up as collective awes echoed through the theater. The game was a nice way to solidify BIHS as a community and to bring unity to the class. Another beloved BIHS teacher, Ross Parker, later presented the Kalpna Mistry scholarship. The award is in memoriam of a former BIHS teacher who sadly passed away in 2008 while on a Fulbright scholarship in the Philippines. The scholarship was given to four students who embodied the aspects of Mistry, and embodied all of the aspects of the International Baccalaureate Learner Profile. It was a really sweet moment made all the better by the fact that recipients found out that they won at the same time as everyone else.
Other highlights of the night include a speech made by Elias Gutierrez, who used BIHS specific humor while also touching on what the school has done for him. After an hour and a half of performances, speeches, presentations, and sashes, the night finally came to a close with a slideshow of BIHS students throughout their four years at BHS. The ceremony brought together the BIHS community and was a bittersweet way to send off the graduates into the next phases of their lives.