PaliHi Graduates Start a New Journey

A record 700 seniors said goodbye to Palisades High School on June 9 at a graduation ceremony filled with energy, laughter and remembrances.

Marching into the Stadium by the Sea, the students joined the more than 2,000 relatives and friends in the stands who listened as Danika Masi sang a powerful rendition of the National Anthem.

Masi, who also starred in the school’s musical Evita, will attend the Manhattan School of Music.

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(Left to right: Liana Sheily, Sage Wiley, Caroline Sherman, Roberta Tarvydaite, Charlotte Shenassa, Nardos and Sofanit Shiferaw.)

The pledge of allegiance was led by student body president Evan Holland (University of St. Andrews, Scotland). Nick Christman (San Francisco State), the senior class president, gave the welcoming address.

Students welcomed the crowd in 16 different languages, such as Mandarin, Turkish, Russian and Igbu, reflecting the international diversity at PaliHi.

Nadia Tahsini
Nadia Tahsini

Valedictorian Nadia Tahsini (Stanford), who had a 4.4 GPA after taking 11 advanced placement courses, was one of the speakers.

“Where are we headed?” she asked. “I’m not just talking about college. Similar to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, you cannot precisely know both the position and the momentum of a student. It’s okay not to know. The time is not yet come to finalize our momentum.”

Salutatorian Olivia Stutman had a 4.38 GPA (also 11 APs) and will attend Cal Berkeley.

Seniors audition to be one of four other student speakers at graduation. Those chosen this year—Ajamn Lee-Johnson, Gina Luna, Paul Kim and Michael McNorvell— represent the stimulating differences in the student body.

McNorvell, who is one of only four cellists selected for a spot at Washington University (St. Louis), spoke about the students’ journey to graduation.

In elementary school, “our concerns weren’t grades or health, but Yu-Gi-Oh card collections and tech-decks and cooties,” McNorvell said. Then in middle school, “every day was a battle against our ever-evolving selves” and high school “we spent our weekends really living it up, consuming almost toxic amounts of . . . literature and mathematics.” He concluded, “Adulthood is kinda gonna be a mixture of awesome and awful. And you know what, that’s the beautiful brilliance of life.”

Luna (West L.A. College) said, “Among the graduates, over a hundred zip codes are represented here today. It’s been a long journey for many of us. I wake up at 5 a.m. every morning to catch four buses and a train to get to school on time and still manage to keep my eyes from closing in class.” She noted that it also took two hours to get home. “There were many times that I wanted to quit, leave Pali, and go to a school down the street from my house, but I wanted a good education,” she said, ending with. “Si se puede y si se puede.”

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A musical interlude arranged by Joshua Elson, highlighted seniors and included songs “Home” (Phillip Phillips), “In My Life” (Beatles), “I Can” (Nas) and “Unwritten” (Natasha Bedingfield).

About 257 of the graduates will go to a two-year college, allowing them to transfer to a four-year college and save thousands of dollars in the process. About 388 grads will attend four-year colleges that range from M.I.T. to Swarthmore and the University of Wisconsin; nine will enter the military; 10 will take a gap year, 10 will go straight to work; and three will become apprentices. The remaining students had not made their plans available to the college center.

By Sue Pascoe
Photos by Lesly Hall

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