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Malibu High School bids farewell to 159 graduates

Members of Malibu High School’s newly minted Class of 2017 toss their caps into the air Thursday, June 8. Photos by Suzy Demeter/22nd Century Media
Senior Class Vice President Lucas Gorak makes his way to the stage to deliver the student address during Malibu High School’s graduation ceremony Thursday, June 8.
Malibu High School graduates Shelby Thacker (left), Phoebe Little (middle) and Kayia Lightner arrive at graduation.
Jackson West exits the stage at graduation.
Superintendent Dr. Ben Drati and Principal Cheli Nye lead the procession.
Bryan Kostors conducts the MHS orchestra.
Malibu High Associated Student Body President Maya Silardi presents the ASB address.
Principal Cheli Nye congratulates graduate Braxton Pierce.
Shane Carey (left) and Wes Davis pose after the graduation ceremony.
Barbara Burke, Freelance Reporter
9:28 am PDT June 14, 2017

There were tears of joy and pride-filled faces as Malibu High School celebrated its 2017 graduation on Thursday, June 8.  

On a breezy June Gloom Malibu morning, 159 young citizens of the world smiled broadly as they entered the high school’s main field welcomed by the loud applause of family members, friends, faculty and well-wishers.

Like the town they come from, the graduates are an eclectic mix of talented, confident and affable people. The students represented world robotics champions, entrepreneurs, published authors, founders of nonprofits, accomplished thespians, artists, musicians, authors, academic scholars, athletes, and creative, talented souls.  

Amongst the class are admittees to the finest of American universities, those who intend to give back to the world during a gap year, those who will serve our country in uniform, and free spirits who surge with innovation and creativity and intend to take a self-made path.

In short, they are a microcosm of both Malibu and their country.

There were three co-valedictorians, each having received an “A” in every class taken: Maya Silardi, Jade Soufer and Carl (Izzy) Putterman. 

Silardi shared her memories and insights with the attendees.

“It doesn’t feel that long ago that I was the awkward new kid freshman year sporting a head-to-toe Brandy Melville outfit, desperate to fit in,” she said as her classmates chuckled. “It’s crazy how fast these past four years at Malibu High have come. ... We’re going to Stanford, Berkeley, U-Penn, UCLA, USC, Northwestern, just to name a few.” 

“We’re placing at far above the national average on virtually every standardized test and we are traveling the world from Mexico to Kenya to simply give back to those in need,” she continued. “ ... If I learned anything over the four years with this wonderful hodgepodge of good-looking weirdos, it would be to take on life with a bit of humor. Care enough, but not so much you lose yourself in what other people think. Take life a little less seriously. Because when you do, and laugh off the little things, the important stuff makes itself apparent. And that is something I think will take us far in life.” 

The graduates are ready to take on the world.  

Tania Moran stood nervously in the graduating line, smiling affably, albeit shyly. She’s headed to San Jose State to study business management.  

Niki Mandel looks forward to pursuing a double degree in behavioral neurology and economics, but will spend a gap year in Dublin (she already has her flat) after a summer studying gaming at Brown.

Nikita Shpayer will confidently tell you that for him, the sky is the limit, quite literally. He plans to study aerospace engineering at USC and is taking a summer experience with a project involved in SpaceX.

“Malibu High has definitely prepared me for the next four years at UC Berkeley,” Putterman said. “After seven years at MHS, I feel like college will not be a huge leap, but rather another step. MHS offers so many AP classes that college does not seem like a completely new environment.” 

Soufer heartily agreed.

“The teachers at Malibu High — Sean Ryan, Jennifer Gonzales, Bonnie Thoreson, and Eric Carrier, to name a few — are the sole reason I feel both academically and socially prepared for my studies at UC Santa Barbara next year,” she said. “Not only have these teachers inspired me to stay disciplined and focused on my goals, but they have also prepared me to challenge the status quo and stay true to myself. Their passion in their fields has inspired my passion in biology, my major.” 

As with any rite of passage, those closest to those launching on a new trajectory feel a little bit of sadness along with immense pride and joy.

“They’re my babies, my kids. I’ve been here 15 years. I’ve watched them grow up,” said Eric “E” Martin, lead custodian at MHS. “I cry a bit. I’m so proud of them. They’re smart, intelligent kids.”

Counselor Luke Sferra heartily agreed.

“The overwhelming feeling this time of year is that our kids are ready to launch on their individual journeys,” he said. “We wish them all the best. I’ve been here since the school was established. We could not be more proud.”

When asked about their favorite memories, the co-valedictorians had varying and intriguing accounts. 

“My favorite memory would have to be the hours spent in Robotics Club building and designing the robot,” Putterman said. “My friends and I have spent hundreds of hours in Mr. Corrigan’s room for Robotics Club. I remember before one competition Sam Burton and I spent 30+ hours in a week just tuning the programming skills. While it sounds tedious, we made it fun with jokes and pranks.” 

The high school experience has been full of memories that will be cherished, life and vocational skills that will enable, and friendships that will endure.

“My favorite memory at MHS was receiving a silver medal in a creative essay writing contest for the Malibu Optimist Club — a huge surprise for me!” Soufer said. 

Silardi struggled to narrow her favorite memory down to one sole moment.

“I think looking back, our first pep rally junior year was a highlight,” she ultimately said. “It was my first pep rally as junior class president and I was so nervous that I was going to do a bad job, but I remember looking at my class section and it was the first time we felt united as a grade. Everyone was decked out in white clothes and face paint cheering together. It was one of the moments that I really felt connected with my class.”

As is traditional, the class presented a gift to the school: a wonderful painting by graduate Seamus Padraig Harrington’s father, local artist Eamon Harrington. 

“Seamus is the youngest of our four kids, and the last to graduate from MHS,” Eamon said. “This painting represents the spirit of Malibu that our family has experienced throughout our years here.”

Graduation caps were joyously thrown into the air at the end of the ceremony as the graduates collectively closed one door but individually opened so many others.