By Carl Butz
In Downieville, on a beautiful late afternoon this past Saturday, a full-capacity crowd assembled at Tin Cup Diggings Park next to the Downie River to witness the graduation ceremony for Downieville High School (DHS) class of 2022.
The proceeding was opened with James Berardi, now Superintendent for the Sierra-Plumas Joint Unified School District and a 1982 graduate of DHS, calling for a moment of silent recognition for Mike Moore, the teacher, principal, school superintendent, and School Board Trustee who died early this month after 50 years of service to education in Sierra County. He closed his remarks by encouraging the students to venture boldly into the world, citing Albert Einstein’s famous observation, “A person who never made a mistake is a person who never tried anything new.”
Next, Jacob (Jake) Sainsbury, the class Salutatorian, addressed the audience and expressed his thanks for the wisdom, guidance, and support he had been provided by his parents, teachers, and the entire community during his years in school. Sainsbury also spoke about his classmates, extolling the group’s ability to work together, during a very unique and challenging period. He closed with a glance at his soon-to-be fellow graduates and a boisterous shout, “We did it!”
The class Valedictorian, Dylan Martinelli was the next speaker. He also thanked the community, saying their “amazing support” was a tremendous help. He also answered the question of “How do you become a valedictorian?” by saying, “Say Yes.” (In fact, having a greater than 3.5 GPA throughout his four years of high school, earning him a lifetime membership in the California Scholarship Federation, probably helped him a great deal, too.)
Conner White, the next student to speak, then took the microphone to provide a brief history of the class of 2022. He told the crowd how three members of the class had been going to school together in Downieville since elementary school. But, over the years it seemed his peers were playing musical chairs with new classmates arriving, others leaving, or returning. The largest size of the class, nine students, occurred during their fourth-grade year.
The guest speaker for the event was Lynn Fillo. Having retired last year after decades of teaching at the school, she began her talk by saying, “Life is about change and how we handle change determines the quality of our lives.” The class of 2022, she said with a tone of awe, has shown new ways to deal with the novel circumstances forced upon them by the COVID pandemic and “embraced the opportunity to work toward futures and the realization of their dreams.” Her final words of wisdom were, “If you’ve got a chance, take it!”
In a tradition unique, as far as we know, to Downieville, the awarding of scholarships was the next order of business. During this portion of the event, the audience learned how the students were variously looking forward to careers in fashion design, international relations, the travel industry, land management, psychology, and fire suppression. We also saw the collection of students being given well over $10,000 in recognition of their hard work and community service during their time in school. The list of donors included the local Lions Club, SCPTA, Snow-Busters, SHOE, Sierra City Fire Dept. Auxiliary, Downieville Fire Protection District, Barbara Marshall Scholarship Fund, Downieville River Inn, Villareal Endowment Fund, Sierra County Visitors Bureau, Rebecca Mooers Community Fund, Clampers, and Michael Moore Service Award.
Then, after Patty Hall, School Board Trustee, presented diplomas to Faith Dupree, Kathleen Rose Epps, Jesse J. Folsom, Dylan Martinelli, Gillian Rust, Jacob John Sainsbury, and Conner Edward White, the new graduates threw their mortarboards into the air and began the next phase of the adventure we call life.