Palisades High School Seniors Start Next Chapter

By Sue Pascoe
Editor
Photos by Lesly Hall Photography

The weather was nearly perfect for Palisades High School graduation on June 8 at the Stadium by the Sea. Executive Director and Principal Pam Magee announced that 708 would walk the stage that evening (the class has 723 graduates).

The stadium was packed as students walked through the tunnel to the field, while the combined PaliHi band and orchestra, under the direction of Elizabeth Stoyanovich and Alex Dale, played “Pomp and Circumstance.”

After Benjamin Makhani, the student body president, led the audience with the Pledge of Allegiance, Audrey Kaller sang a moving and lovely rendition of the national anthem.

Speaker Qiairra Broomfield, who will attend Mt. San Antonio College,

Speaker Qiairra Broomfield, who will attend Mt. San Antonio College,

A PaliHi graduation tradition continued as the audience was welcomed by students in native tongues that included Arabic, Cantonese, Farsi, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Mayan, Romanian, Russian, Spanish and Thai.

Senior class president Gabriel Feizbakhsh, who will attend Boston University, told the packed stadium, “I’m overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude for our experiences. As we look forward into our future, the foundations that delivered us here should be nothing shy of genuine praise. So, in response, we say thank you.

“I realize that we will be leaving a community overflowing with so much familiarity and comfort,” he said. “I am so thankful to have been a part of the unifying network that has been Palisades Charter High School.”

Posing before the ceremony were (left to right) Lillie Simon (SMC), Emma Sims (Berkeley), Alyssa Slagerman (UCLA), Taylor Slutzker (Wisconsin) and Jennifer Sixtos (CSUN).

Posing before the ceremony were (left to right) Lillie Simon (SMC), Emma Sims (Berkeley), Alyssa Slagerman (UCLA), Taylor Slutzker (Wisconsin) and Jennifer Sixtos (CSUN).

Instead of a speaker, another PaliHi tradition is to let students speak at graduation. Seniors prepare speeches and then audition in front of teachers and administrators. Four were chosen to address their classmates: Gabe Galef, Jeline Schy, Dessery Alvarez and Qiairra Broomfield.

Galef, the school’s starting quarterback, who also had the lead in PaliHi’s spring musical Spring Awakening, addressed the school’s mission statement “We will empower our diverse student population to make positive contributions to the global community.”

Then Galef acknowledged that the world does not necessarily value that goal. “As students of Pali, we have been fortunate in being part of a community that guides us towards tolerance of others and towards excellence in ourselves,” he said. “As graduates, we will constantly be challenged to choose between following the herd or to holding on to these values which were properly installed in us at Pali.”

Lindsey Clark will attend UC San Diego.

Lindsey Clark will attend UC San Diego.

He urged his class to try to live by a saying from Coach Taylor, a character from the television show Friday Night Lights.

“I said you need to strive to be better than everyone else. I didn’t say you needed to be better than everyone else. But you gotta try. That’s what character is: It’s in the try.”

Schy said, “When I came to Pali I had such high expectations for myself. I didn’t plan to do the bare minimum, I saw myself going above and beyond. I wish someone would have told me that while yes you should always try your best and go above and beyond, if your above and beyond turns out to be just average, that’s okay.” 

The competition for valedictorian and salutatorian was intense. Eighty students were listed as having a grade point average of 4.0 or greater.

This year’s valedictorian was Ben Wolman, who will attend Columbia University. He reminded students, “We’ve had some experiences that shaped us as a community and as individuals. When the campus was vandalized with hate speech and racial slurs just over a year ago, we stood together as one Pali community, making local news with our protest as we expressed our solidarity and refused to accept this as the new normal. Some of us took the initiative to draft a student bill of rights.”

PaliHi Valedictorian Ben Wolman will attend Columbia University.

PaliHi Valedictorian Ben Wolman will attend Columbia University.

Wolman said, “Now we can vote. We can have discussions, even (especially) with those who disagree with us. We can and must read and watch the news and form our own opinions.”

The salutorian, Gene Tanaka, who will attend Stanford, was not a speaker.

Salutatorian Gene Tanaka will attend Stanford.

Salutatorian Gene Tanaka will attend Stanford.

One of the highlights of the graduation was once again a medley of songs, arranged by choir director Josh Elson. Songs included “I’ve Had the Time of My Life,”“Don’t You Forget About Me,”“You Gotta Be,”“Seasons of Love,” “ In My life,” “Breakaway,” “Good Riddance” and “Unwritten.” About 25 senior choir members sang, accompanied by about the same number of senior instrumentalists. Elson orchestrated the medley so that many of the students had a chance to sing a short, last solo before their classmates and families.

PaliHi 2017 senior class facts:

According to the Palisades High School college center, 92 percent of the 723 seniors will attend a two-year or four-year college. 

About 55 percent plan to attend four-year colleges.

Jazz Flowers will go to Santa Monica College.

Jazz Flowers will go to Santa Monica College.

Many of those attending a two-year college were accepted to four-year institutions, but because of financial reasons or because they opted to stay in California, plan to attend a community college, such as Santa Monica College, for general courses.

Eight students are already employed, nine will enter the military and eight will attend college outside the United States (including France, England, Sweden, Canada, Denmark, Italy and Spain). Seven students are taking a gap year and 14 students chose not to share their plans with the college center. According to the college center, 1,388 teacher recommendation letters were sent out and 4,974 applications were sent to 454 colleges. The average number of colleges that students applied to was 6.9.

This year there are about 25 “new” schools that students will attend (meaning no one from PaliHi has attended that college or hasn’t in the last 10 years). They include Coe, Calvin, Lynn, Soka, Presentation College, Mt. Holyoke, Southwestern University, University of Nebraska, Hartwick College, Jackson State and University of Mississippi.

Senior Class President Gabriel Feizbakhsh will attend Boston University.

Senior Class President Gabriel Feizbakhsh will attend Boston University.

Three students were selected as Posse students and will receive four-year scholarships. They include Alexander Manrique, who will go to Northwestern, Emma Maxwell who will attend Tulane and Galaan Abdissa who will go to Bucknell.

Students will attend a variety of institutions from those with “name” recognition such as Yale, to those that are not a common household name such as Hartwick. The counselors emphasize that kids need to choose the school that best fits their personality and where they can thrive.

Gabe Galef will attend Chapman University.

Gabe Galef will attend Chapman University.

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