GONZALES — New banners displaying 42 graduates from Gonzales High School’s Class of 2020 have now been hung up by Gonzales Public Works around Central Park and along Fifth Street.
The banners were unveiled at a morning ceremony July 27 before three students as well as city and school staff. They feature Spartan graduates either holding a pennant or wearing a sweatshirt from their future college or endeavor.
“We are in challenging times due to Covid-19, but it did not deter us from continuing this initiative to celebrate the students’ accomplishments,” said Rene Mendez, Gonzales city manager. “The banners inspire all our youth to focus on the future and achieve academic success. It was important for us to stay the course and keep this tradition going.”
The banners, which will hang for one year to celebrate the achievements of recent graduates before being given to the students and their families, honor those attending local community colleges, technical schools or four-year universities as well as individuals heading into the military.
Mendez noted Covid-19 provided challenges, such as obtaining student photos, but he felt this year was important to ensure the banners were displayed since graduation and other end-of-year festivities had been canceled.
“We are very proud of all 200 of our high school graduates and celebrated them by placing large banners with senior pictures of our entire senior class on Fifth Street,” said Candace McFarland, director of college and career readiness at Gonzales Union School District. “The college banners link the success of high school to college admission and is a reminder for our youth to focus on the future.”
This year GHS graduates will attend California Polytechnic State University; California State University in Bakersfield, Chico, East Bay, Long Beach, Monterey Bay and Stanislaus; Fresno State; Gavilan College; Hartnell College; Monterey Peninsula College; Sacramento State; Santa Clara University; University of California Berkeley; University of California Davis and Washington State University.
“It is important that both students and the community have an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the completion of a student’s academic efforts,” said Yvette Irving, superintendent of GUSD. “It is a visual representation of our success as a district and community, acts as validation for all of the time teachers and classified staff dedicate to supporting students, and shows current students that it can be done.”
The banners are part of a much broader approach by the city and school district to focus on youth development and engagement from grade school to high school graduation. It is “The Gonzales Way,” an approach that has defined the community.
“While a cliché, it truly takes a village, and it is the ‘Gonzales Way: Love, Care and Connect,’” Mendez said. “We truly are in this together.”
According to Irving, the partnership between the city and school district is important because it “allows us to bring more resources to our students and community and models a behavior, collaboration, that that we hope our students see as invaluable when they become adults.”
This is the second year the banners have been displayed. Mendez said the reaction to the banners has been positive, even from outside the city.
“Both years the public has expressed a feeling of enormous pride and a commitment to continue the collective work that got each student to this level,” Irving said.