King City High School Class of 2022 seniors toss their caps into the air moments after turning their tassels and concluding their graduation ceremony on June 3. (Sean Roney)

KING CITY — Crowds packed War Memorial Stadium on June 3 as King City High School celebrated the more than 200 graduating seniors in the Class of 2022.

“I want you to take what we all see in you and apply it to life,” said Principal Michael Gray to the class. “Be humble, be kind, make good decisions. Never stop learning.”

Gray said the journey full of twists and turns, and how it made the graduates more prepared for future life challenges. Though he characterized the journey as a “rollercoaster ride,” he said through it all, the class demonstrated Mustang pride and spirit.

“You are prepared to contribute to society, you are prepared to be successful,” Gray said.

Valedictorian Paulina Torres noted the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on student mental health, going over the stress, anxiety and depression students went through.

“We have all experienced an arduous journey to be where we are today, whether it was mentally, physically or emotionally,” Torres said. “No matter how dark and difficult the past was, remember the hardships you overcame and the valuable life lessons you acquired during your educational process.”

Through the challenges, she called her classmates commendable for overcoming the years of challenges.

“We started as young, immature kids, and here we are, all grown up,” Torres said. “Growing up in a small town, it’s safe to say that a lot of us were close to one another at one point or another.”

She added that everything the class learned in high school was a foundation to continue building stronger versions of themselves.

“This graduation marks the end of yet another extraordinary chapter in our lives, and with this chapter closed, I’m sure a lot of us are already anxious about starting the next one,” Torres said. “Unlike the textbooks, you can’t skip through the pages of life to see how the next chapter’s going to be.”

Salutatorian Austin Short read haiku poems to represent the journey, with repeating themes of paths, storms and snow. He explained it was appropriate for “this strange generation of kids” who spent half their high school years glued to computer screens.

“Our motors spur, our lives started anew, the sun to guide us,” Short said.

With the class about to start a new life, Short said the graduates had so many paths to travel.

“We’ve so much to do and see and experience regardless of the paths we choose to take,” he said.

Candice Sanchez reviewed how the years zoomed by in her senior speech, saying how fifth-grade promotion became eighth-grade promotion, and then the high school years hit, years where the class was conditioned to see as nerve-wracking.

“As we entered high school, we faced unprecedented events, such as Covid-19,” Sanchez said. “This pandemic has truly changed us as students. We were the only class to experience a full year of high school, and yet ended up with a regular graduation, unlike the past two years.”

Sanchez said she was proud of her classmates for making it through the pandemic difficulties, from masks to hybrid learning to going back to in-person school.

“I understand how an event like this can affect each person differently,” she said. “These have got to be the longest yet shortest years in this period of our lives.”

Sanchez reviewed the past year in particular, from a week of repeated campus fights, to the lunchtime gatherings at the black gates for food deliveries, to the boys soccer team and swim team both earning new banners for the school.

“We all are here for reason beyond our knowing,” she said. “We have our whole lives to figure out our contribution to the world.”

Sanchez noted passing through the challenges of high school meant going through many new challenges of their new lives ahead of them.

“Good, bad, short, long, I remember King City High School and I hope the rest of you do, as well,” she said.

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Sean Roney is a freelance reporter for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for the Salinas Valley communities in South Monterey County.


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