Exeter grads celebrate in light of heavy hearts

Graduates receive their diplomas, recognize a student missing due to a tragic collision two weeks prior

By Paul Myers


EXETER – Monarch Stadium was packed once again to celebrate their most recent graduating class.

But students, families and teachers pushed their celebratory mood aside for just a moment to remember America Fernandez, who could not be with her graduating class. Fernandez and her boyfriend Ricardo Isais were crossing Highway 65 at Sequoia when a driver struck them in the crosswalk. Exeter chief of police John Hall said that drugs or alcohol were not a factor in the collision. Nor did it appear as if the driver was distracted by texting or something on the sort.

“Sometimes accidents like these happen. We have all been driving and something shiny catches our eye and when we turn back we just barely avoid an accident,” Hall said.

Fernandez and Isais were both taken to Kaweah Delta from the scene of the accident. While reports note that Fernandez is at Kaweah Delta, Isais was able to attend the graduation with the rest of his class.

“Two of our fellow classmates were a part of a terrible tragedy…we’re happy that Ricardo could be with us today,” Associate Student Body President, Lexe Cortez said during her address.

Had Fernandez been able to attend she would have stood with the 12 other salutatorian’s who earned between a 3.85 and 3.99 grade point average.

Cortez made a point to note that the sun had raised and set on the class of 2019. Last August this year’s senior class woke up bright and early to watch the sunrise at Monarch Stadium. Ten months later they were in front of their families, mentors and peers at sunset, while gathering their diplomas.

Cortez noted that in between those times, her class made friends, memories, raised over $4,000 on Kids Day for Valley Children’s Hospital, donated 500 toys in their annual toy-drive and touted two valley championships in volleyball and boys soccer. Their accomplishments are a great indicator of what is to come, and principal Bob Mayo’s words encapsulated what he wants for the graduating class.

“Class of 2019, I want you to have great lives…I ask you to be leaders,” Mayo said.

And some of this year’s students are already on their way. Mayo listed off more than a handful of the plans students have ahead of them. Set to leave the valley are students heading to the University of Arizona, University of Oregon, Western Illinois, West Virginia University and Vanguard. Other students are staying in California and heading off to Point loma and Fresno State. More are staying close to home to continue their education at College of the Sequoias. While some are bound for service with the United States Marine Corps and the United States Air Force.

“Our hope for each of you this evening is to continue to give yourself and be your best,” superintendent George Eddy said before awarding diplomas.

“We had no idea how much Exeter high school would have such an impact on us and give us the passion to live life with an unbridled passion,” Annie Jones said alongside Achao Von Silagan Bush. Both were given the honor of delivering the high Academic address.

Within the class, Exeter proudly announced 12 valedictorians and nine Senior Scholastic Awards. Grace Jardon was awarded for agriculture, Christopher Martinez earned his award in art, Nicole Oneto received her award in English, Faustino Ramos earned awards in both a foreign language and mathematics, John Woolwine earned his award in music, Lucero Guzman received his award of science, Jacob Carmen earned his award in Social Science and Sydni Weller earned her award in media and technology.

A total of 69 students, out of a class of 186, earned a scholarship or an award and many earned both.

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