A crowd that was standing room only surrounded the field at Prairie City stadium Thursday evening to witness the commencement of the Folsom High School class of 2023.  

Watch FHS’s graduation ceremony here courtesy of Folsom Times, Folsom TV and the FCUSD. See more photos below.

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With approximately seven attendees for each of the 673 graduates, an estimated 4,400 spectators were in attendance while in the neighborhood of 3000 spectators watched from afar as the sold out event was live streamed with the collaboration of Folsom Times and Folsom TV in partnership with the Folsom Cordova Unified School District (FCUDSD).

 The ceremony was combined for graduates for Folsom High School as well as Folsom Lake High School, which produced 32 of the graduates this year. 

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After carrying the long tradition of marching through the large bulldog at the stadium entry, graduates dispersed into what seemed like endless rows of chairs as the sun began to set behind them just as the final notes of pomp and circumstance played over the stadium speakers. 

The ceremony opened with student Camille Periquet leading the class and attendees in the Pledge of Allegiance followed by the National Anthem that was performed by the Folsom High School Jazz Choir under the direction of longtime Music Director Curtis Gaesser for the final time.  

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Earlier this year, Gaesser announced he was retiring after 39-years as an educator, most of which were with the Folsom High School. 

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“Right now it feels like every other graduation, the school year is over and summer has arrived,” said Gaesser. “But come August is when I will have to get use to the fact that I wont be coming back for the next year. That’s going to take some adjustment. 

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(See our story from earlier this month on Gaesser’s career and retirement by clicking here.

As the anthem came to a close, Principal Howard Cadenhead took to the stage with the opening message followed by long list of academic acknowledgements for the graduating students. 

After one last performance by the Jazz Choir, a series of student speeches took the evening to a point filled with reflection, inspiration and the journey into the unknown. The 2023 Valedictorians include Lian Bayer, Darrell Koltsov, Divya Rao, Amaya Senora and Madison Walker. 

Photography by Bill Sullivan

See MORE photos and all of them available in high resolution in online gallery HERE

Cadenhead did the honors of presenting the class of 2023. In his message, Cadenhead shared a story of a time when his son was very young and struggling with illness and treatments. During that time, it was friends, family and unique connections that helped them pull through the challenging time and ultimately resulted in his decision to apply for a position at Folsom High School where he has been well respected by students and educators today. 

“Each of us tonight have a unique story, all of us sitting here have a winding path. We are the captains of those stories. Some of us have a clear destination, and some of us are just ok drifting and enjoying the view for awhile,” said Cadenhead, who related his early career experience to the future of those graduating. 

“We are allowed to navigate with agency, but not without influence. We are nudged often off course by forces out of our control, sometimes illness, tragedy and sometimes love, forces much bigger than us,” he said. “We all rely on the grace of friends, family teaches and mentors to pull us back on course. At some point, all of you sitting here, your strength and kindness will be needed by someone you will create connections and pull the people you care about back on course. When you do that in that moment, your story will be amazing, expect it.”

FCUSD Superintendent Dr. Sarah Koligian, David Reed, president of the FCUSD School Board and Chris Clark of the FCUSD board performed the honors of presenting the graduates with their diplomas as students Kimberly Empleo and Olivia Nola announced the graduates by name. Folsom Mayor Rosario Rodriguez was also in attendance with Vice Mayor YK Chalamcherla. 

Thursday’s event was the first of three graduations this week for the FCUSD. Vista de Lago High School in Folsom and Cordova High School in Rancho Cordova are scheduled for tonight (Friday) at 6 p.m.   Both events will be livestreamed through FolsomTimes.com and Folsom TV as well. 

Photography by Bill Sullivan

See MORE photos and all of them available in high resolution in online gallery HERE

Photography by Bill Sullivan

See MORE photos and all of them available in high resolution in online gallery HERE

Bill Sullivan
Author: Bill Sullivan

Bill Sullivan has over 25 years of professional journalism and content creation experience in which he has earned 37 professional awards. He is the co-founder/publisher of Folsom Times an All Town Media LLC product.