A total of 135 students graduated from Xavier College Preparatory High School in Palm Desert on Saturday morning during a commencement ceremony inside the school's gymnasium. It was the school's first in-person graduation ceremony since the start of the pandemic.
"It was a decision we had to make. It was necessary, it was really necessary and it proved okay," said Xavier College Prep Chaplin, Father Jack McGinnis.
According to school officials, students cumulatively received over 715 university and college acceptances, with the average students receiving acceptance to 5 colleges/universities. To date, the graduating class of 2021 has received more than $7.1-million dollars awarded in merit-based scholarships.
"I feel amazing, It's a time I’ve been waiting for. It all came down and I got it and I feel great," said graduating senior, Dustin Thompson.
Thompson said he plans to attend College of the Desert for two years before transferring to a 4-year university. He is interested in studying business, communications and music.
Several administrators and students delivered well-composed speeches to a sea of students, staff and families before the cue was given for students to throw their caps in the air to celebrate the milestone in their lives.
"Perseverance, and resilience and bouncing back and making through it; this is a great victory for all of us," said Fr. McGinnis.
McGinnis was particularly amazed at what he described as as a true amount of courage following a difficult year that caused seniors to spend most of their last year in high school learning from a computer screen.
"They’ve expressed this. They became calmer across the board, they became calmer during the pandemic. They also kind of reached inside and found some courage and some strength that they didn’t know they had," Fr. McGinnis said.
The celebration marked another milestone for students and local school that have been faced with a multitude of challenges brought on by the pandemic.
"We’ve been waiting for this day for a long time. It's been a difficult year for all of us. We made it work and I’m glad we made it here in person and to be able to experience graduating with all our classmates in person," said graduating senior, Sebastian Garza.
The 2021 Xavier College Prep Valedictorian is Ryan Sebti. Ryan plans on attending UCLA in the Fall. This year's Salutatorian is Taylor Schlicht, who plans on attending Georgetown University.