After a school year held almost exclusively remotely, the around 500 members of Menlo-Atherton High School's Class of 2021 received their diplomas during a graduation ceremony held on Coach Parks, the school's football field, on Thursday, June 3, at 4 p.m. They wore maroon caps and gowns, and masks.
Per San Mateo County Health Department regulations, the school's 70th commencement was kept shorter this year, with fewer speeches than in years past. The school hosted a car parade-style graduation in 2020 amid the pandemic.
Graduate Keilee Shepard read an excerpt from Margaret Walker's poem "For My People."
Senior class co-presidents Alex Waitz and Peter Koenig welcomed the audience of graduates and their limited number of family members — each student was allowed to have two guests, who were separated from graduates with a white picket fence. The ceremony was also livestreamed on YouTube. They encouraged students to continue to embrace the chaos and the unknown in their speech "Chaos and Entropy."
The event was MC'd by seniors Fiona Fulton-Moskowitz and Katherine McDonnell, who peppered their comments with bear puns in reference to the school's mascot.
Other senior speakers and their topics were: Nohelia Morales on "One Dream Accomplished;" and Alejandro Garcia Hurtado on "Live By Your Own Rules."
The student concert band and orchestra, under the direction of Kent Kurrus, played "America the Beautiful," "Pomp and Circumstance" and "Everything's Coming Up Roses."
The Menlo-Atherton Choirs sang the national anthem. Later in the ceremony, the choirs sang "A Million Dreams." The school set up photo booths for graduates to pose together after the ceremony.
This was Principal Simone Rick-Kennel's last commencement before she moves on to a Sequoia Union High School District position in July. She called M-A her second home of 19 years.
She described the last 14 months as both "historical and momentous" in ways that have "defined and challenged" the community.
"As we have a lot to face and a lot to heal, embrace humanity as you pursue your future work," she shared. "You may prevent the next disease. Educate children, work in healthcare, protect the earth, start a company, run for office. You might create art and fight for social justice."
There were 515 graduation candidates this year, according to the school. View the full list of candidates here.