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First Graduating Class at San Juan Hills Ready to Blaze New Trails

The class of 2011 started a school, filled it with new traditions and then said good-bye.

Four years ago, incoming freshmen in San Juan Capistrano and Ladera Ranch had a tough decision to make, said Brandt Hamilton, looking out Wednesday at a packed house at the University of California, Irvine’s Bren Center. There, friends and family gathered to celebrate ’s first graduating class.

“Should we play it safe and go to an old, established high school? We responded like any stallion. I say neigh!” Hamilton said to cheers. He was one of three student speakers, all of whom painted a picture of trail blazers.

Superintendent Joseph Farley likened the class of 2011 to the “hearty pioneers” who started the .

“You’ll retain the unique place, the unique privilege of being the first graduating class,” he told the nearly 500 seniors in caps and gowns.

Hamilton played with the names of neighboring schools’ mascots. The students could have chosen l, but “quite frankly, doesn’t Orange County have enough cougars?”

They could have chosen , “but let’s be real. No one really remembers the Titans,” he zinged.

Senior Claudia Park recalled the early days. There were no varsity sports teams. More than half the classrooms were empty and the bathrooms didn’t have soap. Flash-forward to today and the yearbook has grown from 136 pages to 284 pages, and “our bathrooms thankfully now have soap.”

San Juan Hills High Alma Mater:

Down the Hallways Through the Years, We Share Our, Triumphs, Struggles, Joys, and Tears, And Together We Will See it Through, As We Hold to the Gold, White, and Blue, You’ve Given Us Knowledge, You’ve Given us Might, The Courage to Always Stand Up for What’s Right, The Power to Reach to the Highest of Heights, We Charge Up the Hills One and All, San Juan Hills, San Juan Hills, We’re Stallions Forever Strong

* Until Wednesday night, SJHHS didn't have an alma mater. It was performed for the first time at the graduation ceremony by the Vocal Ensemble, and was composed and penned by 15 Advanced Placement music theory students.

The school is by no means done, Park noted. The  and the Capistrano Unified School District just .

“Our story is by no means finished,” she said.

Principal Tom Ressler congratulated the seniors for striking the perfect tone at the new school. “You have created a community where it does not matter whether you’re rich or poor, male or female or whether you’re white, black or brown.”

San Juan Hills’ first principal Tony Ferruzzo was also in attendance. He opened the school in September 2007, but announced his retirement five months later. Other dignitaries included San Juan Capistrano Mayor Sam Allevato and councilmen Larry Kramer and John Taylor.

Ressler also took time to acknowledge the original administrative and teaching staff that launched the school.

Graduating Stallions are off to such diverse universities as California Maritime Academy, Vassar College, Georgia Tech University, Cornell University and just about every University of California and California State University branch.

Forty-eight of the 494 graduates made National Honor Society and 96 earned Advanced Placement Merit, having taken five or more AP courses with at least two during senior year.

The class' "scholar of scholars," Ian Webb—the school named 33 valedictorians who had grade point averages of 4.0 and higher but Web had the highest with 4.6—said he expected his class will change the world. “It’s not hyperbole. It’s a fact.”

Even if not all become famous, the Stallion’s first graduating class is a catalyst for change, just as it always has been, Webb said.

“Congratulations, class of 2011. You did it. Now do it again,” he urged.

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