Class of 2009: Atwater High School

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no caption Merced Sun-Star

The ceremony: 8 p.m., Atwater High School athletics field

School mascot: Falcons

School colors: Blue and white

Number of graduates: 396

Number of valedictorians: 13, salutatorians: 11

Number of California Scholarship Federation lifetime members: 31

Greetings addressed in three languages: Spanish, English and Hmong.

Cutest sign/gift: A homemade multi-colored sign on a piece of white paper for Vong Yang read "Congratulations Vong." His sister in-law came up with the idea and his family made the sign together. A little turtle filled in the O in Vong. "His favorite animal is a turtle," said Vong's little sister Elizabeth who held a rose in her hand. Vong will be the family's first to graduate from high school, said his little brother Leeseng Yang.

Overheard: "Rico! Rico! that a'boy," screamed Albert Martinez, a senior who could not walk Thursday night because he had three classes to complete in summer school. "I was bummed at first but now I'm happy for them," he said. As the graduates' names were called he hung over the Falcon Field's chain link fence and yelled things to his friends like, "That's my boy, right there," and "That a'boy Eric, that's my boy right there."

Class speakers: Denise Gilmore, Kathryn Widick.

What they said: "For the past four years every day people had told us what to do," said Widick. "that is over now. Each graduate will have to face their future alone, each decision now lies in their hands. The time to be responsible for yourself has come."

Scholarships: $472,000.00

Other accomplishments: The Class of 2009 presented the school a gift: a new pole vault, shot put and discus ring.

One proud parent: The three older sisters of Adalrich Montaño -- Lupe, Julie and Marcy Montaño -- stood in a half circle describing their little brother. They said he was a quiet and studious kid. Like their little brother all three sisters had graduated from Atwater High School.

What they said: They said they were proud of their little "Cacheton" or chubby cheeks, as they call him. He wants go to medical school, said his sister Lupe. "We're excited for his future," she said. "He's going to go to medical school."

Principal: Linda Lucas, who is retiring after more than three decades in education, oversaw her last graduation as the principle of Atwater High School on Thursday night.

What they said: She is going to miss the people most, she said, but after so many years she is now ready to find a new place for herself in the community.

-- Jonah Owen Lamb