There’s something fitting about the 2021 graduation class of the Mare Island Technology Academy (MIT) holding its commencement ceremony “virtually” via YouTube stream this week.
But as we all know, this wasn’t a nod to hi-tech; it was a result of the pandemic. Students amassed at 2 Positive Place in Vallejo to celebrate with one another and grab their “sheepskins,” but everyone else cheered them along via their smartphones or laptops, filling the comments sections with celebratory emojis, well wishes, and shout-outs to loved ones.
MIT Director Dr. Byron Laird should win an award for “Most Enthusiastic” as he took the mic to emcee the proceedings, a ceremony he “mastered” as if he were the best man at a best buddy’s wedding… minus any playful ribbing. He was proud of the graduates, who he said did not let the pandemic stop them.
“You have the opportunity to learn that life is not about the shoes you are wearing or how many likes you have,” Laird said. It’s about cherishing every moment and being thankful for what you have.”
The national anthem was sung by Arabella Oakes, who, if she had nerves, didn’t really show it.
Salutatorian Kaitlin Madriaga compared the last year to a rollercoaster, though she joked that she hates them and hopes this is the only one she ever has to ride. She said she looked forward to the loops and turns slowing, with no more “twists” in the horizon.
“It was not always a fun one, and we held on for dear life,” she said, adding that they held on the safety bars and survived.
Validictorian Daniela Chavez strode the podium confidently and joked that she was about to see if that public speaking course she took would pay off.
“Remember not to let anyone silence you,” she said. “When you have a voice, you have power.”
Chavez praised the teachers and faculty who went “above and beyond.” Then she gave words of wisdom to her fellow classmates:
“You can cut down a tree but its roots will remain in the ground. MIT has become part of our roots.”
One nice thing about having a YouTube ceremony is that the IT department spliced in name cards for each graduate, along with quotes they like and even the school they plan to attend within the next year. Schools like UC Davis, San Francisco State, Cal Poly, and local community colleges flashed across the screen, along with quotes from Bob Dylan, Carl Jung, and from singer Nicki Minaj.
Board Chairperson Debbie Lamb summed up the feelings that the staff had for the graduating seniors:
“I am again in awe. You are so much better than every adult here. We know it, we hope you know it, and we love you to pieces.”