Citrus Valley's graduates wore ribbons to honor classmates who lost their battles with cancer.

If making it through high school means making lemonade out of life's lemons, the graduates of Citrus Valley High School are practically a bottling plant. These 469 Blackhawk graduates landed at the Redlands Bowl on Friday, June 7, to celebrate having made what they could of their proverbial lemons and to drink from the cup of their teachers one last time.

As Redlands Unified School District (RUSD) has done away with valedictorians, speakers were selected from the school's associated student body (ASB).

ASB president Hannah Hill, the "Leadership" banner carrier, and ASB vice president Madyson Williams devised for their classmates a "How to make it through life" list. These are just a few excerpts from it:

"First and most important, be true top yourself; Do what you love and always pursue your passion," said Williams.

"Be bold, be courageous, be your best," said Hill. "Always remember where you came from and that you will always be a Blackhawk."

Williams also advised against worrying about something for more than five minutes, unless it matters five years from now.

Clare Groninger's speech touched on everything from being the last class born before 9/11 to leveling up in the game of life.

"We are the class that grew up with silly bands on our wrists and 'High School Musical' on our minds. We are the generation that grew up with access to so much but are entertained by so little," Groninger joked. "Our childhood was filled with unique events and addicting trends that truly shaped us into the people we are today. We will be the last class born before 9/11. We even have students graduating here today who were born on that day. Their birth day brought a little light to a somber day."

Groninger admonished her classmates to do more than make lemonade out of their lives' lemons:

"Do not simply make lemonade; May you become rich enough to sell it, but humble enough to share it."

ASB Executive Treasurer Alexandria Lugo, the "Service" banner carrier, reminded her classmates to "don't stop believing," as the popular Journey ballad put it.

"These iconic lyrics, 'some will win, some will lose, some are born to sing the blues,' are all we need to remember as we grow and mature in this journey of life," Lugo pointed out. "The loss of our fellow Blackhawks has brought us together as one. Despite our differences, we stood together and continue to stand wearing orange and yellow."

Every graduate wore an orange and yellow ribbon on their gowns, in memory of classmates Nelson Natividad and Yasmin Rivera who lost their battles with different types of cancer during the 2017-2018 school year. Their families appeared on stage at the end of the evening's ceremony, to accept their posthumous diplomas.

As teacher Jeff Partain delivered his "charge to the class" speech, he related to graduates the importance of living a great story.

"If we don't want something with our lives, our stories won't make much sense. And if we don't want something meaningful, our stories will be empty. So ask yourself where your story is going and what do you want? And I'm going to warn you: Too often, we want the wrong thing."

As Principal Rhonda Bruce prepared to present the Class of 2019, she took a moment to remind students that no matter what path they wish to take to always accept guidance.

"The gift I would give to you is to have the ability to see the world, right now, as your future self. Since I can't do that, I encourage you to listen to those who have lived life and have the experience and expertise to share with you. My hope for you is that you can enjoy these marvelous years with an open mind and open ears."

As she accepted the graduates on behalf of RUSD, Board President Cristina Puraci gave shoutouts to Sammy Puraci (her nephew) and Casey Farcas as well as Lugo.

Once all 469 diplomas were awarded, dignitaries ended the ceremony with confetti and streamers and fireworks for all of downtown Redlands to behold.

As the Class of 2019 disburses into this big, bad world, Bruce leaves them with one last bit of advice: "Always show CLASS in everything that you do."

RUSD streamed the graduation live and the video is available for replay at

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