Alexander Monteilh stepped up to the podium and the first words out of his mouth were of gratitude and praise.
The senior and co-salutatorian looked toward Principal Mary Walters and thanked her for helping him navigate his future path.
“If it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t have chosen the Naval Academy,” Monteilh said.
Monteilh was one of 348 Murrieta Mesa High School seniors to receive a high school diploma Friday evening in the sun-soaked Rams’ stadium. They made up the three-year-old school’s first graduating class. Monteilh will attend the academy in the fall on a full scholarship.
Many of the officials who spoke during the graduation ceremony remarked on the obstacles surmounted in order to build the high school, which opened in 2009.
Murrieta Valley Unified School District Board President Paul Diffley praised District Superintendent Stan Scheer for pushing through the construction of Mesa even though it meant taking out a $50-million loan.
“Was a $50-million loan a risk?” Diffley asked the crowd. “Yes it was. But it was the only way to confront this type of adversity.”
Diffley went on to tell the class of 2012 that, just like their superintendent gambled when he took out the loan, the students and their parents opted for the precarious choice when agreeing to attend Mesa.
“And your decision to take a risk paid off,” he said.
In what seemed to turn into the theme of the night, Diffley discussed personal responsibility, telling the graduating seniors, “You are responsible for your life, no one else is.”
The superintendent followed Diffley’s remarks, telling the students that when you “succeed you get the credit and when you fail you get the blame.”
Scheer finished his speech by holding up a $100 bill and asking the crowd if they would still want the money if he crumpled it up and threw it on the ground. The majority raised their hands.
Just like all the individuals in the crowd, no matter what happens to the $100 bill it still retains its value, he said.
So “count your blessings,” Scheer said.
Scheer then informed the crowd that he had taped a $100 bill to the bottom of two students' chairs. The students erupted in cheers when the two seniors discovered the cash.
For Valedictorian Miles Schuler, Friday evening was all about realizing dreams.
“Whatever you think you can, or can’t do, you can,” Schuler said, invoking the words of Henry Ford.
Schuler, , told his fellow students to “put your mind to it and achieve your dreams… but don’t forget where you came from.”
Carter Rawlings, who shared the salutatorian honor with both Monteilh and Connor Coombes, reminded the class of 2012 that no matter where their paths lead “our lives will always be interwoven.”
The University of Southern California-bound student explained that right now everyone is at that perilous juncture in the choose-your-own ending novels, where it’s time to make a decision.
“There’s a bigger world out there…” Rawlings said.
For Skylar Faria that big world translates to joining his family’s business. Faria, 18, plans to attend Mt. San Jacinto College in the fall, receive an associate’s degree in audiovisual technology and work for his family’s Lake Elsinore-based business, S.L. Faria Industrial Supply, Inc.
Faria said he will miss high school but he’s “extremely excited (to be) moving on.”
Forty-five percent of Mesa’s first graduating class plan to attend a two-year college and 42 percent are heading to a four-year college. Four percent of the students plan to enter the military.
Three percent of the seniors graduated with a 4.0 or higher grade-point average, while 17 percent achieved between a 3.5 and 3.99 grade-point-average.