As the sun set over the UC Berkeley Greek Theatre and the fog rolled in Thursday evening, the Class of 2000 said its final good bye to Berkeley High School.
About 750 seniors walked the stage in the graduation ceremony that lasted almost two hours. And as one can expect from almost any Berkeley High event, it featured a little bit of everything.
The BHS All Star Jazz Seniors and the Berkeley High School Gospel Choir filled the Greek with music for nearly an hour as people took their seats. By the time 5:30 came around, the theater was filled with screaming friends, families and Berkeley High students.
“Aren’t you glad it’s not yesterday?” activities coordinator Jamie Marantz asked the crowd, referring to the improvement over Wednesday’s blistering weather.
The seniors filed into their seats just below the front of the stage, and the ceremony began with senior class co-presidents Lilia Tamm and Dominique Baillet welcoming the audience and introducing history teacher Wyn Skeels, the commencement speaker.
Skeels, whose first year teaching at Berkeley High was coincidentally the Class of 2000’s freshman year, said he was honored to be chosen to represent the senior class.
“You are the most inspiring people I know,” Skeels said of the students.
Skeels joked about life at Berkeley High, stating that students spend four years learning their ABC’s: Administration, which changes every year; Bathrooms, which you never want to go near; and the Courtyard with its good atmosphere.
His brief speech was followed by a tribute to Marcia Singman, a teacher who passed away unexpectedly this spring after teaching for over 30 years at BHS.
Seniors Lauren Nagel-Werd and Noam Biale introduced two dance performances with anecdotes of Singman and the time they spent in her classes.
Members of the Afro-Haitian Class danced to drumming and the Dance Production Class performed to James Brown’s “I Feel Good.”
“Rather than mourning her death, we choose to celebrate her life,” Tamm said.
It appeared the comedy part of the program was up next, as Ben Watson-Lamprey spoke followed by Jimmy Tran, Ahmad Cannon and Gustavo Hernandez, who led the seniors in an energetic and comical class cheer.
Watson-Lamprey’s speech looked back on the last four years and what it was worth to the seniors in attendance.
“We can’t write the last four years off as preparing for our lives,” Watson-Lamprey said, “because this is our life.”
Next up were Catherine Owens and Jolie Beckwith singing “Count on Me” followed by Daveed Diggs reciting his spoken word piece entitled “So This Is It.” Diggs’ performance revisited the first day of high school and his first spirit rally.
The next hour passed as students received their diplomas from the Board of Education, shook hands with principal Theresa Saunders, walked across the stage and then returned to the seating area in pure pandemonium.
More than 60 of the seniors received athletic or academic awards or scholarships, including five who were awarded National Merit Scholarships and 55 California Scholarship Federation Sealbearers.
For the Berkeley High School Class of 2000, Thursday’s graduation was the climax of four difficult, hard-working, fulfilling years.
As Watson-Lamprey said, “The last four years have not been a preparation of our lives, they have been in essence our lives.”