Xitlalli Gonzalez didn't want to go to summer school because she thought it was embarrassing, but sticking with it allowed her to be one of almost 400 students graduating from Kern High School District schools Friday.
"I'm excited for what the future has in store for me," she said.
Students looked for shade, laughed and took pictures on the lawn outside Bakersfield High School's Harvey Auditorium before the ceremony started, their brightly colored polyester robes intermingling with each other, every color representing a different school.
Kelly Hardin, assistant principal at Independence High School, was in charge of the chaos and said even though it's hard to coordinate an event with 20 schools, it was a great day.
"They've worked really hard to be here today," she said. "They're excited and they're being really responsible."
Hardin said only about 50 of the 416 students who qualified to participate chose not to attend the ceremony. The graduates consisted of some students choosing to graduate early, seniors graduating late and nontraditional students from Bakersfield Adult School and Kern Workforce 2000 Academy.
And some didn't know if they would graduate until two days before the event.
"It's been a very challenging experience," Hardin said.
While each graduate had a different reason for being there, excitement about the future was clear.
Gonzalez said she was glad she went through with summer school and plans to go into the medical field, studying at Bakersfield College for two years before hopefully transfering somewhere else.
"We got through it together," said her friend Tressia Morentin, who was also graduating from BHS.
Carson Raminez of Centennial High School said it was a nice experience to graduate with students from other schools.
"It's kind of cool seeing the amount of people that don't graduate who are actually with you," he said. "It's like you're not the only one that is going through the same thing."
But Raminez was more interested in the future than the ceremony itself; he plans to travel to Europe in February and wants to eventually open his own graphic design firm.
Maxamillion Ferguson of Centennial High was just glad summer school was over and simply wants to get a job.
"It's pretty relieving that I'm done," Ferguson said. "I can start my life again."
Families cheered and whistled at the well-attended ceremony where Martha Miller, a member of the KHSD board of trustees, delivered a message about moving onward and upward while not forgetting those who helped along the way.
"You have proven you can persevere and I have no doubt you will be successful," she told the students.