Kaiser High School students celebrate at the end of their graduation ceremony on June 8.  (Contributed photo by FUSD)

Ever since she was a freshman at Kaiser High School, Vanessa Ojeikere had been looking forward to the fun of being a senior, including participating in the sport she loves, volleyball.

But then when the 2020-2021 school year arrived, it was devastating.

Not only did the school buildings get shut down from August until April because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the entire volleyball season was canceled.

"Everything that we had was gone in a blink of an eye. No in-person classes, no sports, no dances, no activities," said Ojeikere, the senior class president, during the Kaiser graduation ceremony at San Manuel Stadium in San Bernardino on June 8.

She said that time period was very difficult, and yet she still managed to overcome the circumstances -- and also achieved her goals.

"Not only did I start my own business, I planned and held a social justice reform protest, and I also signed to play volleyball at the school of my dreams -- UC Santa Cruz," she said triumphantly.

Ojeikere said she ended up learning an important truth: "Life will always throw curve balls at you, but what you do with those hardships will separate you from the rest."

Terry Abernathy, who was in his 12th year as Kaiser principal but has now been promoted to a position in the Fontana Unified School District office, praised all of the graduates while giving his final speech.

"You faced the adversity of the global pandemic and you are now ready and willing and more than able to grasp the torch that we bestow upon you," Abernathy said.

He said that dedication, commitment, and hope were the values that defined the Class of 2021.

"This year has definitely been special," he said. "This senior class has made me a better person. They are all definitely ready to represent their incredible parents, Kaiser, and themselves in the world."

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