Paly sends off class of 2013 in commencement ceremony

Becca Raffel and Sam Kelley

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Students listen to Principal Phil Winston speak. Photo by Malcolm Davis.

Members of the Palo Alto High School Class of 2013 listen to Principal Phil Winston deliver his “Welcome Address” at their graduation ceremony on Wednesday evening at Paly. This year marks Winston’s third time sending off a graduating class. Photo by Malcolm Davis.

The Palo Alto High School Class of 2013 ended its four-year run at Paly Wednesday night as hundreds of students walked across the stage to to graduate at yesterday’s sentimental commencement ceremony. It was an evening filled with heartfelt speeches, stunning musical performances, decorated caps and lots of smiles as the Class of 2013 commemorated its time together and embraced the possibilities of the future.

Principal Phil Winston opened the ceremony by addressing the Class of 2013 as a unique class and noting all of the change they have experienced at Paly — the portables on the “sacred Quad,” the construction on campus and the blue lawn chairs — and said that being able to deal with change will serve them well in their lives.

Winston ended his welcome address by reciting an inspirational quote to the class.

“With ordinary talent and extraordinary perseverance, all things are attainable,” Winston said.

Associate Student Body President Jessica Tam took the stage next to complete the welcome address and spoke to her fellow classmates.

“We leave behind a legacy,” she said. “Wherever we go we will take this Paly legacy with us to the rest of the world.”

Justin Zhang next delivered a heartfelt speech, titled “Lessons from Gatsby.”

“There is a part two for all of us which I like to call the rest of our lives,” Zhang said. “Let us fear not the change that will come with a new day, but instead seize the opportunity.”

As he left the stage, Zhang ended his speech with a resounding “Let us cheer for the end of our beginning.”

Soo Song stood behind the podium next to deliver her speech “Stress Case.” She began her speech by questioning all the work she put in in her time at Paly, and addressed the fact that she was voted “Class Stress Case” in the senior yearbook polls.

“Was it worth it?” Song asked herself and her colleagues. She answered with a resounding yes.

Abby Bromberg then walked up to the microphone to deliver her speech, “To the Average Student.”

“I have something to confess,” Bromberg began, leaving the crowd silent in anticipation. “I am an average student.”

Bromberg went on to describe her struggle in the Palo Alto environment of overwhelming success and her realization that everyone has an aptitude, and she urged her classmates to find theirs.

Around 6:08 p.m. Jessica Tam returned to the stage to claim the Viking Award, an award presented by the faculty to exemplary students.

“She is a triple-threat,” Student Activities Director Matt Hall said of her as he presented the award.

This year, two graduating students were Viking Award winners. Ethan Cohen also received the award, which was presented to him from Librarian Rachel Kellerman and theater teacher Kathleen Woods who both praised his work with the In Focus Broadcast Television Network and his help in the theater as a lighting technician.

The presentation of the co-winners of the Viking Award was followed by a performance by Julian Hornik as he sang an original song and accompanied it with the keyboard.

Helen Cane, Yoko Kanai and Annie Vainshtein took the stage next to perform an a Capella rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

“This is the last time we will ever sing together,” the three long-time Paly choir students said.

Winston returned to the stage to announce that film composition, video production and theater teacher Ron Williamson will be retiring.

Around 6:20 p.m., several faculty members read off the names of the Class of 2013 as they walked across the stage to be accepted by Palo Alto School Board members Camille Townsend and Melissa Baten-Caswell.

As the sun crept lower behind the tower building, members of the Class of 2013 moved their tassels across their caps as they stepped down from the stage and into their futures for the first time as high school graduates.