As the first measures of "Pomp and Circumstance" echoed throughout the Starlight Bowl on Friday, a large cheer erupted from the nearly 600 Burbank High School graduates waiting their turn to take to the stage.
"It is about time," said Jeremy Labertew. "It has been a long time coming, 13 years of school and it is finally here. It is like the finale of my life in Burbank."
The 2011 graduates, sporting cap and gowns in Bulldog blue, and some with tassels and medals indicating special achievements, are among the most accomplished in recent memory, said Principal Bruce Osgood. The class includes 150 students with grade point averages of 3.0 or higher, and 65 students with grade point averages of 4.0 or higher, the latter statistic a school record, Osgood said.
Class valedictorian Young Hong – who will attend Cal Tech in the fall – told his classmates that they could no longer shirk responsibilities nor hide behind the guise of youth. As adults, they will be responsible for coming up with practical solutions to real problems.
"Graduation is not merely a formal ceremony, it is symbolic of our maturity and entrance into adulthood," Hong said. "The baton has been passed into our hands and it is our responsibility to take part."
Family members and friends, many bearing bouquets of flowers and balloons, snapped photos as their loved ones mounted the stage.
"It is a proud moment," said Robin Vaughn as her daughter, Magenta Vaughn, prepared to accept her diploma.
The graduates, some still bleary eyed from a trip to Disneyland the night before, said they were sorry to say goodbye, but they're ready for the future.
"You pretty much know a good majority of these people; after tonight, you will not see them again, maybe on Facebook, but you are not going to be as connected as you were in high school," said Samantha Johnson. "But it is an exciting new chapter of our lives to get started on."
The Burbank High graduation ceremony was the last for Osgood, who announced in February that he would leave at the end of the school year to be principal at Village Christian School in Sun Valley.
Osgood held the helm at Burbank High for eight years, raising the school's Academic Performance Index score by more than 100 points and overseeing a major refurbishment project. In 2010, he was honored by the Assn. of California School Administrators as the High School Principal of the Year.
Speaking to the ceremony's theme — "Be the Change" — Osgood called upon the outgoing seniors to embrace just that.
"We talk a lot about change, but I think there are only a couple of things you need to know about change," Osgood said. "One, the only constant is change. And two, either you direct change or change directs you."
And he encouraged them to reflect more intensely on what type of person they would become, rather than what professional title they would take on.
"You, class of 2011, you will be a force for change," Osgood said. "The direction of that change will be in direct relationship to your character."