"We all took a gamble in coming here," valedictorian Samantha Lawler
said in her commencement address.
That gamble paid off for Lawler -- who will attend Caltech in the fall
-- and other students who plan futures in the science and technology
When students first arrived in the fall of 1998, the school still was
partially under construction. And teachers were just as lost as the
students, many agreed.
"We felt like guinea pigs," said senior Artin Aghakhani.
But the number of students attending the school was small, allowing
the students to get to know one another much better and form stronger
bonds, said senior Anahit Trdatyan.
And while graduation was supposed to be a happy time, Trdatyan felt a
"We don't want to leave our friends," she said.
Salutatorian Jimmy Kan likened the experience at Clark to a pub -- a
place where friends gather together everyone knows your name -- in his
speech to the Class of 2001.
He offered them a toast: "Cheers!" he said.
Principal Doug Dall used the ceremony to commend the teachers,
counselors and students for taking a leap of faith. Besides wearing dark
green caps and gowns, each of the students wore a special commemorative
graduation medal around their neck -- a gift from Dall.
None of the 128 students, however, received the school's first
diploma. That honor went to Don Empey, deputy superintendent of the
Glendale Unified School District.
"Don was really instrumental in getting this off the ground," Dall
Empey was a strong supporter of transforming the old Clark Junior
High, which had closed in 1983 due to declining enrollment, into what it
is today. He helped plan the curriculum as well as establish entrance