Family and friends gathered in Bovard Auditorium Saturday to honor the inaugural graduating class of USC Hybrid High School.
The commencement ceremony began with an introduction by Hybrid High Principal Mide Macaulay. Vanessa Ruiz, the class president, then repeated the introduction in Spanish, demonstrating the diversity of the school, which is 59 percent Hispanic.
Hybrid High School, which is operated by the Rossier School of Education’s charter management organization Ednovate, was founded with the goal of providing individual attention to students and lowering drop-out rates. This year, the school achieved a 100 percent graduation rate.
Karen Gallagher, dean of Rossier School of Education, praised the graduating class for collectively earning over 400 college acceptances to 98 different schools. Each of the 85 graduates has been admitted to at least one four-year college, and six have been admitted to USC.
“I want to welcome all the Hybrid High graduates — the college-goers and agents of positive multi-generational change,” Gallagher said. “You are fully committed to being change agents, who strive to improve your own lives, as well as the lives of your families and communities, now and in the future. Your success is a tribute to your hard work and dedication.”
The ceremony’s keynote address was delivered by USC President C.L. Max Nikias, who shared with students what he termed the “three keys of success”: knowledge, character and good judgment.
Nikias stressed that students must constantly listen and read to keep up with the rapid growth of knowledge in the information age.
“Your learning experience does not end the moment you receive your diploma. For all of us, learning is a lifelong journey,” Nikias said. “You should find ways to keep yourself informed, and allow others to inform you with new points of view. You should challenge the ideas of others and encourage them to challenge you.”
Nikias went on to highlight the importance of good character in guiding the students through life.
“Your character is going to be your destiny, and the quality of your character inevitably shapes the course of your life. Character is not about being nice — it’s about earning the trust and respect of your family and friends, and, more importantly, earning the respect of your community,” Nikias said. “You build your character with small acts of honesty, humility, integrity and generosity. The road to true character is a path you must travel alone.”
Nikias closed his speech by advising students to exercise good judgment and to commit to their decisions.
“Every day, all of us are faced with hundreds of decisions. The difference between success and failure is the ability to consistently make good choices,” Nikias said. “Fortune favors the bold. If you have good judgment, you will make bold decisions that will lead you down an exciting path of adventure, discovery and success.”
The valedictorian of the class of 2016, Juan Castro, reflected on the struggles and triumphs that had brought the graduates to this point. He emphasized that, no matter where they would go in the future, they would always be linked by their place in the Trojan Family.
“Soon, we will be constellations — stars connected through space. We will be distant stars, illuminating the name of our Trojan Family, but this is the end and a new start. We will be apart, but together,” Castro said. “Our Trojan Family fire is all we need, and everything we have.”