May 30, 2020
By Kelli Gile, Office of Community Resources
WALNUT, CA—It was a graduation day for the record books.
Diamond Bar and Walnut High Schools put their heart and soul into celebrations honoring the legendary Class of 2020 after the cancellation of traditional year-end activities and commencement due to the global pandemic.
On Thursday, the 76th day of COVID-19 isolation, seniors wore their caps and gowns to be recognized at home during virtual ceremonies that included synchronized musical performances, speeches, faculty tributes, turning of the tassels, and special celebrity messages.
Radio personality and Emmy-winning television host Ryan Seacrest sent a keynote to the 589 graduating Walnut High seniors after receiving an on-air request by Principal Dr. Ryan Maine.
“He was doing whatever he could to make today unique and special as possible for you,” Seacrest said.
“And he did not have Harry Styles’ phone number.”
Seacrest acknowledged that the past few months hadn’t played out as the teens had envisioned.
“You went from hearing the familiar voice of ASB president Matt Mayo saying ‘Good Morning, Mustangs’ to asking yourselves ‘What day is it?’” he added.
“What has not changed is everything that you’ve accomplished,” the KIIS FM host said.
“You should all be very, very proud of yourselves!”
Actor and executive producer Morris Chestnut delivered a virtual message to 710 Diamond Bar High graduates during the 37th commencement ceremony.
“Well, you made it! Today was supposed to be the day you walked across the stage and get your diploma,” he said.
“Well, that’s not going to happen,” he said stressing that life is about perspective and responding and handling adversity.
“When it comes to this pandemic… don’t think of it as something that’s happened to you - look at it as something that has happened for you,” the television and film star added.
Chestnut urged the teens to find and seize upcoming opportunities.
“There are going to a lot of people in business who are going to need young, fresh, innovative minds to help them adjust and adapt to what’s happening in the world today.”
“Who better than yourselves? You can do it!”
During a social distancing drive-through processional held from 8 a.m. - 3 p.m., Diamond Bar High faculty congratulated students while presenting awards and diploma covers.
Teens exited cars and walked through an inflatable tunnel set up near the front office before taking the stage for a commemorative photo.
Principal Dr. Reuben Jones congratulated the grads with elbow bumps before they reunited with families.
And although everyone had donned protective masks, the beaming eyes, some filled with tears, and hidden smiles told the real story of the importance of the milestone event themed “Don’t Let Anything Quarantine Your Passion.”
The celebrations may have looked different this year, but schools were determined to give students the recognition they deserve.
“I am so grateful for the message of hope and optimism from Mr. Morris Chestnut to our seniors during this unprecedented time,” said Principal Jones.
“Mr. Chestnut is an outstanding person and his words of wisdom and advice are timeless.”
That evening graduates returned to the school for a Purple Parade celebration with staff cheering, waving cow bells, pompoms, and glow sticks.
“I know these aren’t the ideal circumstances, but I promise you that today is a day you’ll never forget,” said Principal Maine during Walnut High’s virtual program.
“And I hope you feel the love and appreciation that you deserve.”
The first-year school leader made good on that promise.
The 50th commencement culminated with a virtual message from Grammy award-winning artist Tori Kelly followed by a “One Last Ride” processional through campus.
“This parade will go down as one of the biggest parties Walnut High has ever thrown!” Maine exclaimed.
“For over three hours, our staff cheered, danced, gave personal letters, gifts, and signs to our graduates. The smiles, tears, and excitement on their faces made it all worth it.”
“It was an unforgettable day that left me speechless,” reflected valedictorian Mayo, 17, after the Walnut High celebration.
“Seniors will remember this for the rest of our lives.”
“I was initially feeling discouraged at the idea of a virtual ceremony, but thought the school did an amazing job of ensuring we still felt special and as if we were graduating together,” added valedictorian Mena Hassan, 18, from Diamond Bar High.
“Having all the quintessential elements along with extra segments such as compilations of pictures, a celebrity guest, and especially the video of our faculty and staff dancing to "Don't Stop Believing", really cemented a feeling of solidarity among the Class of 2020 and made me feel so proud and grateful to be a Brahma.”
Valedictorians achieved academic perfection by earning an “A” in every class. Congratulations to the following students graduating with highest honors:
Diamond Bar High School: Sean Chang, Tiffany Chang, Siyuan Cheng, Alex Chun, Katie Dung, Anastasia Gani, Mena Hassan, Tianna Huang, Jeffrey Katrib, Angelica Kusnowo, Yewon Lee, Huijie Li, Ethan Liao, John Liu, Rick Liu, Angela Lopez Rochin, Ryan Lou, Catherine Lu, Justin Lu, Prokkawn Majumdar, Bingxu Meng, Zoey Meng, Tom Murickan, Mason Pan, Liliana Ruvalcaba, Anoushka Sahgal, Erika Santos, Keshav Sriram, Kayla Teng, Summer Wang, Hamlin Wu, Henry Xiao, April Yang, Deborah Yim, Adrienne Yuh, Justin Zhang, Brandon Zhou.
Walnut High School: Sarah Aie, Jing An, Nathan Chen, Nicole Chiang, Stephanie Honeywell, Richard Jin, Denise Kao, Jasmine Lantano, Matthew Mayo, Janelle Nguyen, Aengieline Sevilla, Crystal Thai, Jessica Tieu, Chamine Tran, Crystal Wu, Jiayi Wu, Alvin Yu, Melody Yu, Cathy Zhong.
International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Candidates completed the rigorous academic program.
Diamond Bar High School: Stefan Chu, Sharon Lee, Danial Motamedi, Elizabeth Peng, Keshav Sriram.
Walnut High School: Mohamed Abdelmuati, Nicole Chiang, Nada Dalati, Darren Hon, Kari Huang, Phillip Huynh, Berenice Lau, James Lee, Jeffrey Lu, Ambareen Masood, Regan Ng, Evan Tan, Jessica Wang, Jiayi Wu. IBCP Diploma Candidates: Evan Chen, Brian Cheng, Ruth Cichoski, Claire Hsieh, Jasmyn Isomura, Laksh Kalra, Teresa Maung, Daniel Mendoza, Katherine Ngo, Brandon Nguyen, Kelly Poon, Charme Simbulan, Kaylie Wun, Melody Yu.
Walnut High School faculty and staff celebrate graduates during “One Last Ride” processional on May 28.
Walnut High Principal Dr. Ryan Maine congratulates grads during “One Last Ride” parade on May 28.
Walnut High Instructional Dean Nelson Chen waves #Classof2020Strong sign at “One Last Ride” parade entrance.
Diamond Bar High faculty cheers as students prepare to take stage for commemorative photo during drive-through processional on May 28.
Diamond Bar High School celebrates Class of 2020 during drive-through processional on May 28.
Diamond Bar High Principal Dr. Reuben Jones celebrates graduates with social distancing elbow bump during 37th commencement.
Diamond Bar High Grade Level Coordinator Ginger Auten presents diplomas during drive-through processional on May 28.
Walnut Valley USD commencement ceremonies on May 28 feature powerhouse celebrity keynote addresses from Ryan Seacrest at Walnut High and Morris Chestnut at Diamond Bar High.