Placer grads mark end, new beginning

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Placer High School’s Class of 2009 stepped into the adult world Saturday, with LeFebvre Stadium stands overflowing with well-wishers. The sometimes-emotional graduation ceremony included words of wisdom from Dr. Seuss’s “Oh, The Places You’ll Go,” a solo singer’s emotions brimming over, a proud principal with a list of class accomplishments to praise, and 294 grads making a final farewell fling of their caps into the air. It was a morning under cloudy skies that was far from grad Rachel Morgan’s thoughts a month ago. The Auburn teen was in a car that was struck head on by a driver that veered over into the oncoming lane on Meadow Vista Road. Morgan underwent two surgeries and — still recovering from injuries that included a broken pelvis — was in a wheelchair Saturday wearing her cap and gown to receive her diploma. It was the final one of the day to be given out. “I didn’t think I was going to be here,” Morgan said. “But it’s graduation. I’ve been going to high school for four years and I wasn’t going to miss this.” A fifth-generation Placer High graduate, Tyler Bunnell said he couldn’t help but get a little emotional when Mary Cait Hogan choked up as she sang the closing musical number “For Good.” Bunnell’s relatives from three previous graduation ceremonies stepped onto the stadium infield with thousands of other well-wishers after the singing of the school’s alma mater and the tossing of the caps. A great-great-grandmother started things off in the 1920s for a family with roots in the Auburn area stretching back to the 19th century. Great-grandmother Marge Ritacca of Auburn, a member of the Class of 1949, said her ceremony was in the nearby Crabbe Gymnasium and comprised about 100 graduates. Local “49ers” still meet for lunch and are planning a 60th anniversary reunion for September, she said. Looking over the last 60 years, Ritacca said the latest crop of grads should think positively. “You make your life what you want it to be,” she said. “If you have goals go after them.” Principal Peter Efstathiu, who is in his first year at a school that has held classes since 1897, cited several accomplishments for the school, including SAT scores that were in the Top 10 for the Sacramento-Placer County area, over half of the grads going on to colleges or community college and over $1 million in scholarships given out to students over the past five years. “Success breeds success,” Efstathiu said. “110 years of history has got your back.” Student speakers were Kierstin Gray, Sean Collins, student body president Danielle Ferretti, and class valedictorians Evan Buck, Rosemary Havener, Michael Lazar and Kevin Nittler. “Today is our day/Class of ‘09, let’s get on our way,” the valedictorians said during their address, quoting and adding to Dr. Seuss’s words for the occasion. The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at