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Rio Mesa honors Class of 2011

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© Carlos Chavez/VC Star
The Rio Mesa High School Class of 2011 celebrates during commencement exercises Friday in Oxnard. © Carlos Chavez/VC Star

Although the sky was gloomy, the mood was bright at Rio Mesa High School’s Michaelson Stadium as family and friends of the 421 members of the 2011 graduating class took the field.

Principal Ray Gonzales told graduates, “I want to express my confidence in all of you. It has been my great privilege to watch you grow and mature these past four years.”

After quoting lyrics from the Josh Groban song “You Raise Me Up,” co-Valedictorian Montana Beifuss challenged fellow graduates to “take your future into your own hands, stand strong, dare to do better.”

“We have the opportunity to impact others, to stand for good,” she said.

Co-Valedictorian Danielle Christine Mansfield said, “I look out at the class of 2011 and I see some of the most inventive, creative and determined people I’ve ever known. I’m so proud of you guys.” Then, after sharing her tips for success, she told the students, “Don’t let your fear hold you back in any way.”

Yaritza Rodriguez, 18, has already enlisted in the Marine Corps and reports for basic training July 25.

“I thought about going to Iraq or Afghanistan and I’m not afraid because women aren’t allowed in combat, so I’d get some type of humanitarian assignment. I think being a Marine will be an adventure, to travel and meet new people.”

Cristian Franco, 18, a first-generation American, plans to pursue a degree in criminal justice at Ventura College before transferring to San Diego State University. He’s the first in his family to attend college.

“I want to become a detective because I think it’s the best way I can help people,” Franco said.

Olivia Johnson, 18, who received a scholarship from the 20th Century Onyx Club, a civic and social organization comprised of African-American women in the Ventura area, also wants to help. She’ll be attending Arizona State University in the fall to pursue a nursing degree.

Until she leaves for Tempe, though, she said she’s “looking forward to spending as much time as possible with family and friends.”

isa Garcia’s daughter Braeauna Garcia, 17, will be studying dance at Moorpark College.

“I’m just so proud of her. She’s an amazing young lady,” Garcia said.

Genji Otani’s son Joshua will be attending classes designed for people with autism at Channel Islands High after graduation.

“It’s been a long journey, but it’s not really over yet,” Otani said.

Rio Mesa High School

School district: Oxnard Union High School District

Spring enrollment: 2,087

Graduates: 421

Valedictorians: Montana Biefuss and Danielle Christine Mansfield

Principal: Ray Gonzales

Past year’s highlights: Of this year’s graduates, 88 percent will attend colleges and universities; Spartan athletics earned the 2010 Pacific View League Cup; and jazz band earned first place at the 42nd annual Dos Pueblos Jazz Festival in Santa Barbara.

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