Like many of his fellow seniors at Banning High School, Associated Student Body president Joseph Rivera was a pretty busy guy.

He represented his school at the school board meetings, providing updates of campus activities to the district. He was a student representative to the Knights of the Round Table, a service club. He juggled National Honor Society and dual enrollment at Mt. San Jacinto College; training for, and competing in, cross country and track; he was busy coordinating student activities, such as the year-end all-school talent show.

For all of his hard work, he is rewarded with a place in the freshman class at the University of California, Riverside, next fall, where he will take care of prerequisites before transferring to University of California, Berkeley, to study political science.

“I’ll miss the people here, and the staff, and the acceptance level” of new students to Banning, considering that Rivera served on Link Crew, which helps transition freshman throughout their first year of high school.

“We always seemed to have new people, and new students were always made to feel welcome,” Rivera said. “It’s very community-oriented here.”

Rivera said that he will miss his principal, Matt Valdivia, and ASB adviser, Joanna Barnheiser, as well as his senior class adviser, Sticia Shubin.

As his fellow graduates anxiously prepared to leave the gymnasium and march down to the stadium for their last activity as students at the high school, Rivera said, “I hope they take with them everything they have learned, and a lot of fond memories.”

Valedictorian Seanna Garewal, who was recently honored as one of the Citrus Belt Area Athletic Directors Association’s Outstanding Athletes of the Year, reminded her classmates in her address to her peers that, “Please remember, this is where your name will be remembered: in the halls of this high school, and in the hearts of those around you, where you have found a home for four years. When things get tough, don’t forget … we will always be here for each other, because we are more than just a class, we are a family.”

Garewal was Banning High School’s first-ever early signer to commit to a sports program at a college, when she signed a letter of intent in November 2016 to play softball at University of California, Riverside, where she will study biology.

She graduates with a weighted grade point average of 4.59. Besides being captain of the girls softball team, she was a member of the National Honor Society, participated in the Advancement Via Individual Determination program, and was involved with the Gay-Straight Alliance.

“All of the pieces of the high school puzzle have finally fallen into place, and here we are, ready to walk the stage and begin the bigger puzzle that comes with the next part of our lives,” she told her classmates. “After seeing what this class has been able to do, I can only imagine the life-changing things that we are going to come up with.”

Salutatorian Nicholas Khemvisay also offered remarks to his peers.

“Expressing oneself naturally shows that you have the strength and courage to go to the world and show your might,” he told them. “You must embrace yourself to gain the confidence to move on in life, with an eternal will.”

Khemvisay was a member of the boys tennis team, and the National Honor Society. He played clarinet in the school’s bands, and will attend the University of California, Irvine.

A few students, interviewed before they marched toward the field, reflected on their experiences at Banning High School.

Margarita Kendrck, who participated in the school’s Academy of Business and Technology, seemed to be glad to move along, as she prepares to join the military.

“My experience was nothing spectacular” in high school, she claimed. “It was cool. I’ll keep up with friends outside of high school.”

Alyssa Morales participated in the dual enrollment program with Mt. San Jacinto College. She will join the Marines.

“It’s definitely been hectic. We’ve had a lot to juggle everyday,” she said. For her, that included balancing participation in the AVID program, and taking on the role of senior commissioner of finance for the ASB. “We made it though,” she said. She credited AVID teacher Nathan Valdivia, and principal Matt Valdivia, for making her experience in high school easier.

Senior Daniel Robbins was uncertain what his future holds.

“I’m looking for a job,” he said. Not having something immediately lined up made him “miss the people here.”

Lila Yang, who participated in the Academy of Business and Technology, and was past president of the Asian American Club, said, “I’ll miss all my classmates, and Mr. (Ciprian) Indries,” her government and economics teacher; and “Ms. (Julie) Ferris” (history teacher), for inspiring her. She will attend Mt. San Jacinto College to study design.

Jose Romo, a kicker for the football team who signed early last fall with the University of Delaware, where he will study sports management, said, “I’ll miss my friends and coaches, and the beautiful view we have here. I’ll miss that the most,” he admitted. He singled out ASB adviser Barnheiser, and English teacher, James Nakakihara, as faculty members that supported him through high school.

He was involved in the AVID program, and was ASB commissioner of entertainment.

When he arrives in Delaware next fall, he will join his older brother, Fidel, on the football team.

Following are the speeches given by Nicholas Khemvisay and Seanna Garewal:

Nicholas Khemvisay

Hello Banning Broncos! I guess what we learned this year is that how we rocked these four years. I remember not to long ago how we were the freshmen at the bottom of the system. But we grew and became a sophomore, junior, and then our righteous title of senior. These high school years were the best of times and the worst of times. I can say for certain that it was an experience like no other. To me, this experience right here is unbelievable. I never expected that the kid who hates talking having to talk to a thousand people. I always believed that when it came to speaking out, it would be the job of someone other than me. I always felt inferior to others and anxious to please them. My family and friends probably never knew how I felt completely but it felt really lonely not knowing what to do and how to do it. But they held onto me and changed how I completely feel. It took me so long just to break out of this shell and move into the new world. I remember the fear I had speaking to the class every presentation. I worried of their opinion and laughter if I messed up. This is not the case. I talked to all my friends. I even talked to my family about this. I learned that everyone has the same problems like me. They struggle with sounding right and fear the mistakes they think they will make. They want to overcome and succeed. They are proud of anyone that can accomplish this as well. So after I finished talking, I was showered with applause as they are glad that I did something like that. It warmed my heart every time. I thank everyone for those kind encouragement. You made me who I am. What I learned from them supports what I strive for. Every person in this school experience the same problems and try to solve it on their own accord. To develop a relations and level up, you just need to act naturally with others. Having a facade only leads to emphasizing only the facade. You would still feel lonely as before because the connection between each other is not as strong as it needs to be. Expressing oneself naturally shows that you have the strength and courage to go to the world and show your might. You must embrace yourself to gain the confidence to move on in life with an eternal will.

My name is Nicholas Khemvisay. I’m graduating from Banning High School, home of the Broncos, with the legendary class of 2017. We did it!

Seanna Garewal

Good evening, my name is Seanna Garewal and I would like to thank all of the members of the board, our office staff, teachers, and loved ones for being here tonight to celebrate the graduating class of 2017. These past four years of our lives have been filled with great times and long nights, and I am grateful that I get to walk side by side with all of you today. Banning High was like putting together a puzzle. Our freshman year we were getting into the swing of things and tried to figure out where we belonged. We went from being the big fish in a small pond to the smallest fish in the big pond and it was initially a little frightening. Through our Freshman year we experienced our first high school dance, out first football game, what it really felt like to stress over our first finals, and our group of high school friends. At the time how we dressed, how our hair looked, and who we hung out with seemed like the most important thing because we were the newbies. Somehow, over the year, we put all of the edge pieces of the puzzle together. Our Sophomore year is a little more difficult to look back on. Many of the memories combine with those of Freshman year. Sophomore year is where we got to hide and just go through the motions of high school. We were not the newbies anymore so that attention was gone and we were not apart of the upperclassmen so there were no eyes on us from the freshman either. As we moved through school and followed our same paths everyday, we continued to build our foundation. The middle of the puzzle was starting to come together and we were just beginning to use our voices. Our junior year we came in and really had some things figured out. We came out at the pep rallies and swept the seniors for the Spirit Flag and we even took back the wheel! Even though our classes got harder and our social time became more limited, we only grew closer as a class. Somehow we have always managed to find time for each other in the chaos of everything else. Being a Junior meant that we were finally upperclassmen and we had eyes on us. This was the first year that we were allowed to go to prom, we had cool activities planned, and if you were in AVID it was the year of the junior road trip that everyone looked forward to. As we ended our junior year, the entire puzzle was almost put together. We have gained knowledge, friendships, and we couldn’t be more excited to become seniors. We walked into school in the fall of 2016 as the top dogs of the school, the senior class. There were only a few missing puzzle pieces left and senior year was set to be easy. Then there were others of us that chose to take seven classes and six were AP, yikes. We have seen our class do some amazing things this year from athletes signing letters of intent for sports, to watching our friends become the Student of the Year, participating in the special olympics, and all of us for being able to make it here tonight. At the beginning of senior year we had a lot of choices to make about our future. One of the most important being about college. Can a public institution funded by a state government billions of dollars in debt really provide the same level of education as an overpriced private school?!? Then after that, the fun began. We made it through all of our senior activities, battled it out in powderpuff, the student staff game, kept the spirit flag for the remainder of the year, and lived it up at grad nite. All of the pieces of the high school puzzle have finally fallen into place and here we are now ready to walk the stage and begin the bigger puzzle that comes with the next part of our lives. After seeing what this class has been able to do in the four years here, I can only imagine the life changing things that we are going to come up with in the near future. Sitting in these seats is the next generation of doctors, lawyers, first responders, comedians, veterinarians, plumbers, and so much more. While we are trying to put the next puzzle together we will find that there will be more pieces and many obstacles to overcome. As these challenges arise please remember that this is where your name will be remembered. (pause) In the halls of this high school and in the hearts of those around you is where you have found a home for four years. When things coming up in life get tough, don't forget these people, because we will always be here for each other because we are more than just a class, we are a family! Congratulations class of 2017. Thank you.

Staff Writer David James Heiss may be reached at dheiss@recordgazette.net, or by calling (951) 849-4586 x114.

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