Commencement Ceremonies for the 2012 Senior Class of John Burroughs High School on Memorial Field.

Commencement Ceremonies for the 2012 Senior Class of John Burroughs High School on Memorial Field. (Photo by Mike Mullen / May 24, 2012)

It was impossible to tell which was shining more brightly at the Burroughs High School commencement ceremony on Thursday — the faces of the graduates or the newly renovated Memorial Field.

“It feels awesome,” said Michael Lima as he lined up with his classmates to accept his diploma. “It feels like I have accomplished something. I worked hard for 13 years and this is where I stand today.”

The Burroughs High School class of 2012, more than 600 students strong, was the first to celebrate graduation at the recently remodeled Memorial Field, and not without a bit of a fight.

After more than a decade of planning and fundraising, Burbank Unified officials broke ground on the $12-million renovation in January 2011. The class of 2011 celebrated commencement at the Starlight Bowl, long the home of the Burbank High School graduation.

With construction scheduled to be completed in spring 2012, members of the class of 2012 expected to see the event return to Memorial Field. So when school officials announced they would keep it at the Starlight Bowl to protect the new facility and to streamline logistics, the seniors sprang into action.

A petition and a series of meetings followed, and in December, Principal Emilio Urioste announced that commencement would return to its traditional location at Memorial Field.

It was a victory that came up repeatedly during the festivities Thursday.

“I prefer it here because it is where we first came as high school students and I think it is a great place to end our high school years,” said graduate Ravipa Losakul before parading onto the field Thursday.

Associated Student Body President and valedictorian Anthony Mark noted that while he and his classmates might look like just a bunch of teenagers, they have already distinguished themselves.

“Present here are elite, championship athletes, award-winning actors, acclaimed orators, nationally ranked musicians and dancers,” Mark said. “The list is never-ending. Perhaps that which we have accomplished surprises some of us. After all, it can be hard to imagine how much we have deviated from the initial expectations we set for ourselves four years ago.”

And after the last measure of “Pomp and Circumstance” trailed off and the bleachers cleared, the graduates turned their attention to the next chapter.

“It’s surreal, definitely,” said graduate Vanessa Lanza, who plans on enrolling at Pasadena City College next year. “It is exciting and very nerve-wracking, but I feel like we are prepared and we are ready.”