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Driller Nation celebrates the seniors of 2021, a class no one will forget

Griffith Field hosted the 126th graduating class of Bakersfield High School on a blustery Wednesday evening.

Driller Nation is known for the deep appreciation of its own history, and senior class president Isabella Caputo told the audience that the class of 2021 will be one that will be remembered.

"We're going to be in the history books as the class that did it, the class that didn't give up," she said.

As is often the case at any Bakersfield High School event, many alumni were present. There was even a touching tribute in a valedictorian speech.

Elyse Wong, one of six valedictorians at the school, dedicated her speech to her grandfather, who graduated from the school in 1947. She said Wednesday would have been his 92nd birthday. 

"I'm honored to be a part of the Driller Legacy," she told the audience.

Ben Sherley, BHS principal and also an alumni, said 515 seniors graduated this year. He saluted the class not just for making it to the finish line but the way they did it.

"It really is a testament to their perseverance," he said. "They had to overcome a lot of obstacles their senior year, but their attitude is extremely positive."

Troy Sanders, class of '85, almost didn't make it out because of an injury but he was feeling good Wednesday night.

"I gotta come out, I'm an alum," he said.

His daughter, graduate Saniaa Dawson, who he said has been an excellent student from her earliest days, will be teaching dance courses at Mallory Academy of Dance while going to Bakersfield College. 

"We're proud of her for making it this far despite COVID and life's challenges," said Dawson's mother, Nakisha Wright. "It was tough."

It wasn't always easy for students. Jose Cabrera Sr. said it was a rough road, especially the last year and a half for his son Jose Cabrera.

"He worked hard and saw the light at the end of the tunnel," he said.

Cabrera's mom, Herminia Flores, wasn't even sure that a graduation ceremony would happen, so she was grateful that they were able to see their son graduate in person.

"I didn't think this would happen, so this is great," she said. 

This year in particular was really a struggle. Even doing something as simple as trying to log on and get credit for showing up to class was impossible. Carolina Torres said she saw her daughter Jessica Torres and classmates really struggle with technology.

Torres hadn't been on campus except to get her cap and gown.

"It felt nice coming back," Jessica Torres said. "It makes you appreciate it more."