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Cerritos High celebrates 50 years of being an educational institution

California 72nd District Assemblywoman Janet Nguyen with  proclamation to Cerritos High Principal Patrick Walker during last Saturday morning’s 50th anniversary opening ceremonies.

 

April 1, 2022

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

 

Last Saturday was a day to be a Don for former and current students, faculty and staff as Cerritos High celebrated its 50th anniversary. For four hours, it was a time to look back at the past and see what life at the high school has been.

“I was hoping to be around when I was hired, not that I was doing the math necessarily as to when the 50th [anniversary] was coming up,” said Cerritos principal Patrick Walker. “But I’ve always said I hoped to be at this school for a very long time. The moment that I got the job; certainly, the first year, I’ve just fallen in love with the students, the staff and the community. It’s just a great place to work; a great place to be.”

The day began with a 30-minute opening ceremony and welcome by Walker, the school’s eighth principal who is tied with Stan Steddom (1979-1988) for the longest tenured principal in school history. The star Spangled Banner was performed by former student and Broadway actor Anthony Chatmon II.

Then came the introductions of what Walker called “Don Dignitaries”, which included, among others, California 72nd District Assemblywoman Janet Nguyen, Cerritos Mayor Grace Hu, Cerritos Mayor Pro Tem Chuong Vo, Cerritos Councilmember Frank Yokoyama, ABC Unified School District Superintendent Mary Sieu, ABCUSD President Soo Yoo, ABCUSD Board member Ernie Nishii, former Cerritos principal Jeff Green, former athletic director Dennis McReynolds and his wife Joan and former student and ABCUSD superintendent Dr. Gary Smuts, who was the keynote speaker.

Smuts read part of a note from a former student and athlete he has kept for over 40 years who wanted to take his life but through the conversations he had with Smuts, changed his mind. Smuts then read a small part of another note from another former student and athlete who was going through some troubled times.

Following the speech, a video put together by Class of 1999 alum and current MUN teacher and cross country and track and field head coach Jason Watanabe titled, ‘I am a Don’ was played. It showed clips of life at Cerritos High over the past 50 years.

“It’s truly a blessing to work for my alma mater,” said Watanabe. “Not only are you able to have a greater connection with your students, it also pushes you even more to put more effort into everything you do. I am lucky to be working with many of the programs I was involved in high school, and it makes me take even more pride in the work I do.”

Watanabe was part of the planning committee for the 50th anniversary festivities, which he called an honor, and added that in the beginning, he really wanted to create a connection with those who made the school what it is today with those who are currently at Cerritos High.

The opening ceremony ended with a closing statement by Walker before Chatmon got the crowd to sing the alma mater with him.

“One of the things we were able to accomplish, surprisingly so that it hadn’t been done in a while, was being honored with the California Distinguished School award,” said Walker. “It’s the highest honor a public school can get. When we got it in 2019, it was the first time in 23 years that we had earned that award.”

In his early days of being the principal, Walker remembered being asked by the school newspaper, The Informer, what his goals were. He responded by saying that he was stunned Cerritos High had not won that award in a long time.

He went on to say that the school has great activities, great artists, great athletes, great scholars and he is humbled by them each and every year, just their talent and their intelligence.

“I have to say another great accomplishment for us that I didn’t think we would ever see was a 605 League title in football,” he continued. “That was pretty exciting as well.”

As for the near future, Walker said he is excited about bond measure BB and upgrading the physical plant, which will begin in this summer. Also, just to the north of the gymnasium will be a new science building, which he says is long overdue. All the classrooms will be upgraded to 21st century capabilities.

After the opening ceremony, several bands, the Cerritos High Pep Squad and Dance and Drill teams performed in the quad. There were game booths and food trucks on the blacktop area and in various locations in the quad, you could meet and greet the teachers. In the East Gymnasium, there were displays of athletic artifacts and on the back side of the administration building, there were decade posters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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