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Valedictorian Lana Murray strides proudly across the football field at Portola High School with diploma in hand, despite the many unexpected challenges presented to students in a time of global pandemic and social distancing orders. From left, behind her are Vice Principal Brian Sheridan, Principal Sara Sheridan and PUSD Board Member Joleen Cline. Photo by Angelina Wilson

Class of 2020: A historic graduation at PHS

By Lauren Westmoreland

Jasmin Garcia gives a welcome speech in Spanish at the graduation ceremony held Friday, June 12, at Portola Junior/Senior High School. Photo by Angelina Wilson

Special to Plumas News

A historic graduation is in the books after the Class of 2020 held a unique ceremony on Friday, June 12, at Portola Junior/Senior High School in the midst of a global pandemic.

Thirty-nine students in the graduating class lined up on the football field to the sound of “Eye of the Tiger” at proper social distance from one another, accompanied by cheers and honks from the multitude of vehicles surrounding the football field in light of the current social distancing guidelines.

Maria Popish gave a heartfelt rendition of the National Anthem, to a chorus of tooting horns, followed by a brief welcome to the Class of 2020 by graduate Alma Whitfield.

“Here we are in person, overcoming all of the hurdles — we worked hard to get this very mo

ment, ready to begin the next — we ourselves are our very limit,” Whitfield said. She thanked the many friends, school staff and family members that had helped get all of the graduates to where they were.

Jasmin Garcia then approached the podium and repeated the warm welcome and many heartfelt thanks in Spanish.

Valedictorian Lana Murray and Salutatorian Andrew Helbig earned their titles to much acclaim after a high school career filled exemplary work.

The keynote speaker, Mr. Richard Martinez, was introduced by graduate Emily Sheridan, and Martinez spoke to the students from the heart one final time. “I imagined how the ceremony was going to be, celebrants filling the bleachers and field,” he said, voice echoing over the field. “That time has arrived. I hope that you have not allowed the pandemic to cloud the sweet memories of your years together in school, nor dimmed the reality of what a wonderful class you have been, for your school, your town, and each other.”

“It is 2020. It is Plan B,” Martinez went on. “The virus, sadly, is real. The time for you and all Americans to care selflessly for one another has not ended. How exciting for me to have you all unleashed into the world to create a positive difference — thoughtful, courageous and so bright. It is time for each of you to begin. Your generation can and must create positive change- consider yourselves challenged. Class of 2020, it’s time to focus. Go forth, and farewell.”

Plumas Unified School District Board Member Joleen Cline and Assistant Principal Brian Sheridan then proceeded with the presentation of the diplomas.

One by one, Sheridan handed each graduate their hard-earned diploma, naming the goals and aspirations of each graduate with a smile as each graduate made the long walk across the field once more, closing with a final cheer to the sound of “Stand by Me.”

Congratulations to Portola High School’s Class of 2020 graduates —despite it all, you did it, and the community couldn’t be more proud.


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