After a grueling year of distance learning, the graduating class of 2021 at San Gorgonio High School walked the stage at the Glen Helen Amphitheater on June 3.

The students were spaced apart every three seats.

There were white chairs close to the stage that were also spaced apart for the seniors.

The atmosphere was abuzz with excitement, as parents, families and friends started milling about, going to the seats.

Happy seniors began screaming and cheering behind the stage area as they prepared to enter the amphitheater.

Silver, white and blue balloon arrangements adorned the stage, spelling out “seniors,” “congrats” and “2021.”

“I think that the parents, students and teachers are excited,” said Harry “Doc” Ervin, San Bernardino City Unified School District superintendent. “We are all glad to be here, and we should cherish this moment for our graduates.

“I am happy that the seniors get to walk the stage.”

“It’s a blessing to be here,” said Sylvia Mendez, mother of Cesar Mendez.

“We are proud parents and grandparents.

“My son would like to get into real estate. He’ll be signing up for classes soon.”

“They did a great job with the seating and social distancing,” said Sharon Espinoza, Cesar’s grandmother.

“The year was very challenging for the children with staying at home and doing distance learning,” said Espinoza.

Cesar Mendez Sr., Cesar’s father, came to the graduation along with Cesar’s grandmothers Sharon Espinoza and Maria Mendez.

As “Pomp and Circumstance” was playing, a digital American flag waved, as the staff and students marched the perimeter of the amphitheater before finding their respective seats.

Speeches were made by the valedictorians and salutatorians thanking their parents, friends, teachers and staff for paving the way for them to succeed.

Some of the speeches were translated in Vietnamese and Spanish.

Valedictorian Priscilla Cuevas tearfully thanked her parents and grandparents in English and Spanish telling them, “Thank you for supporting me. I love you.”

“It’s different being here,” said senior Angel Avila. “I’m very happy that we get to have a graduation, even though we have to sit apart from each other. After all, we didn’t get to do anything at school as seniors.

“I’m glad that I get to see my friends and team mates.”

Avila, a member of the football, track and wrestling teams, was named Athlete of the Year.

“I put a lot of work in what I do,” said Avila. “I stayed to the grind and now I get to celebrate it.”

“After all the hard work that I put into this, it has finally paid off,” said senior Jack Johnson. “If there was anywhere that I’d rather be to graduate, it would be here at Glen Helen.”

Johnson said that it was difficult to stay motivated throughout the year of distance learning.

“It was just difficult to even get up to go to school. I would have rather been at school than at home.”

Johnson will attend Norco Junior College and wants to transfer to University of Riverside to earn a business degree.

With a smile on her face, San G senior Nakaiya Jackson seemed to be floating on air, as she received her diploma folder and shook hands with the district officials on the stage at Glen Helen.

“I appreciate everything that everyone has done to put this graduation together,” said Jackson. “I haven’t seen my friends in a long time. We haven’t been at school the whole year. This is just wonderful. I love it.”

Jackson will be pursuing a career in carpentry. She is enrolled at Riverside City College to attend trade classes.

After the last graduate crossed the stage to cheering applause, the seniors of the graduation class of 2021 were instructed to move their tassel from one side of their cap to the other.

Fireworks were ignited behind the amphitheater, as caps flew into the air and students took selfies and hugged one last time before moving on to adulthood.

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