Vendors did a brisk business in balloons and leis. Every side street within a half-mile was filled with cars. Basketball coach John Singer, who would watch his own son, John, march in with the green-gowned seniors, sold off the last glass mugs.
New additions to Helix Nation assembled Wednesday evening at Benton Hart Stadium on campus. The stands were packed. And family and friends lined perimeter fences around the perimeter. With Rani Goyal, their new executive director wisely wearing sunglasses against the bright sunset, Helix Charter High School celebrated its 59th annual commencement.
Addressing their classmates with humor and nostalgia, valedictorians Oscar Barillas, Cristi Marie Magracia, Samuel Stowe and Kevin Tran offered their wisdom. Class of 2011 principal Kevin Osborn spoke of doors closing and opening, “but remember: Once a Scottie, always a Scottie.”
He noted with pride that the Class of 2011 was the smallest class to enter and the largest to graduate—495, according to district offices. Not all showed, since several dozen diplomas weren’t picked up, but they missed a wonderful night.
“The Class of 2011 entered Helix as the first class required to meet more rigorous graduation requirements implemented in 2007,” the school said beforehand. “As a result, each graduate will leave Helix meeting the admission requirements for the University of California and California State University systems.
There are 191 students graduating with honors (earning a 3.5 or higher grade point average) and 89 earning gold caps (outstanding performance on California Standards Tests).”
Both of these totals are the highest ever for a Helix graduating class, the school said.
“Helix’s Class of 2011 performed more than 18,000 community service hours and took more than 500 college admissions tests (SAT and/or ACT),” the school said.
Helix serves 2,400 students from all over the county, with the majority from La Mesa, Lemon Grove and Spring Valley. Helix High School was established in 1952 and was granted its charter in 1997, becoming the first comprehensive charter high school in the state.
After the speeches, the ukulele trio playing "Over the Rainbow" and the Helix Pipe Band's performance, students filed in two lines toward the stage to accept diplomas and handshakes—their names read off cards handed to two school officials posted at microphones.
Time it took to complete the process: 33 minutes.
But for at last nine graduating seniors, school isn’t over. Left for them—this weekend’s CIF San Diego Division II baseball championship and the state track meet in Clovis. Kenny Keys will run a sprint relay and the ball team will play at 4 p.m. Saturday at San Diego State’s Tony Gwynn Stadium.