Yovanni Munoz_BHS Grad

Yovani Munoz, a Bakersfield High School senior, poses in front of the Fox Theater and its special message to graduates.

Meet Yovani Munoz. Class of 2020. Bakersfield High Drillers.

He heard from a friend, who picked up his graduation cap and gown at the nearby Jostens store, that the iconic Fox Theater marquee featured a special message that day:

BHS Drillers

Congrats Class of 2020

Yovani came downtown to see the sign for himself. After all, with the COVID-19 crisis and shelter-in-place order still in effect, this could be the closest to a special “graduation” moment for the senior Driller.

Meet Felix Adamo. Class of 1971. South High Rebels.

While scouting the location in preparation for a recent photo shoot, he noticed the young man, off on his own, sitting and watching the scene – looking pretty somber, actually – so he asked him:

“Are you a Driller?”

Of course, as we all know in Bakersfield, “Once a Driller, Always a Driller.” As the proud parents of two Drillers ourselves – Zane Adamo (Class of ‘11) and Cooper Adamo (Class of ‘16) – what came next was nothing short of a special moment indeed.

Felix, an amazing, award-winning, now-retired photojournalist, offered to take Yovani’s photo under that special marquee message.

The result: An impromptu graduation portrait session of sorts – COVID-19 style. Smiles through the heartache of likely never crossing the stage on the hallowed Griffith Field during a blistering May evening, while thousands of loved ones shed tears of joy at the sound of “Pomp and Circumstance” and pray for a cool breeze. Oh, if only our biggest problem with 2020 graduations was the weather.

Afterward, as we talked to this polite young man about his future plans – he’s deciding between joining the military or enrolling at Bakersfield College, hoping to one day become a physical education teacher – I lost track of how many times Yovani said, “Thank you.”

Over and over, again and again, “Thank you.”

I also lost track of how sad I’ve been feeling, knowing that our youngest son will miss out on his college graduation. Truth be told, I wanted to be a loved one in the crowd this 2020 graduation season, joyful tears in my eyes, praying for tolerable temps.

But on this evening, thanks to a Driller and a Rebel, I cried anyway. Still tears of joy ... just different.

I think that’s the kind of world we’re all living in now — there’s still joy; it’s just different.

You may have to look a little harder for it, and you may need to appreciate it more than you used to, but it’s there, I promise.

I’ve even got the photos to prove it.

Teresa Adamo is a local children’s book author; former Bakersfield Californian reporter and editor; mother of two Bakersfield High Drillers; and wife of retired photojournalist, Felix Adamo.