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2024 Cougars seek to make a positive impact

by R. HANS MILLER
Managing Editor | June 11, 2024 1:30 AM

WARDEN — On a verdant lawn with families, friends, teachers and hundreds of other community members out to celebrate with them, the Warden Cougars graduating class walked the stage on Friday. Warden High School Principal Katie Phipps started the ceremony on a high note. 

“You are prepared, you can conquer all of the firsts life will throw at you. Your future is bright. Your future holds endless possibilities. Your future is yours for the taking,” she said. 

Phipps said she’d seen a lot of the “firsts” the members of the class had seen. She’d first met them as sophomores and followed them as they progressed toward obtaining their diplomas. She encouraged them not to be afraid of the new experiences that would come along with being an adult and reminded them that they were ready for whatever might come their way. 

Valedictorian Omar Pruneda joked as he took to the podium for his address to his classmates and the community. 

“You have officially made it,” he said. “You’re here and never going to have to pick up another pink slip for being tardy ever again.” 

Pruneda congratulated his classmates on their drive to move forward and graduate despite the challenges of COVID-19, high school and life in general to reach graduation. Despite those setbacks, he said, nothing prevented them from moving forward from students to alumni. Challenges came and went but goals and support of each other and support from family, the community and school staff and faculty moved each of them forward. 

“Every achievement we reached; every obstacle we overcame; and every friend we made added to the foundation of a resilient and ambitious group of people, regularly,” he said. 

Salutatorian Hallie Cole followed Pruneda at the podium and expressed appreciation for the community, school staff and reflected meaning on a song she’d first heard on “Hannah Montana” by Miley Cyrus as a child. The song encourages people to appreciate the memories they’ve formed and bonds they’ve shared, and Cole said she hoped her fellow Cougars would do exactly that. 

“There is truly no other place quite like Warden High School, and no one else I would rather graduate with,” she said. “We may have lost part of our high school experience to covid, and were divided during our freshman year due to social distancing, but we are now here together. Today. Wherever our futures take us, I hope we have had an impact on one another, and I hope as we go our own ways and pursue our dreams, we will remember those who have impacted and supported us along the way.” 

After the graduates walked the stage, the students had Jada Hernandez lead the assembly in prayer. 

“Thank you for giving us the strength we needed and for leading us to this moment of graduation, we are beyond grateful for the people you have put on our paths, including our family, friends, advisors and educators. Their love and support held us strong and inspired us to continue your promise, dear Father, in this next chapter of our lives, as we seek to do good and make a positive impact in the world, we pray that you continue to guide us and fill us with humility and resilience to make the right choices,” she said during the prayer.

    Santiago Herrera Bautista, an honors graduate, marches across the stage to collect his diploma and take the next steps into adulthood.
 
 
    Warden High Principal Katie Phipps turned her back to the crowd so she could face her students one last time before they walked the stage. Phipps expressed great pride in the class’s accomplishments and commended them for their integrity, kindness and drive for excellence.
 
 
    Two Cougar grads show off their diplomas after walking the stage over the weekend. Dozens of students earned their diplomas as part of the Warden Class of 2024.