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Shafter comes back from uncertain covid times

Shafter rebounded from the challenging times of the Covid-19 pandemic, seeing the city prosper and its residents begin to thrive again after the last couple of years of uncertainty.

JANUARY began with new leadership at the top of the City Council, with Chad Givens named mayor. Givens was excited about the chance to serve the city in this capacity and was looking forward to the possibilities that lie ahead. Givens also said, "Shafter is my home. I was born and raised here, and I love going to local stores and restaurants, talking to familiar faces and spending time with my own family."

He also said that he was planning on helping create a committee that would focus on creating and attracting new businesses to Shafter, especially revitalizing the downtown area.

Givens made good on this promise and the committee was hard at work all year pushing the envelope to have the city thrive. He also promoted First Friday events in the downtown area during the summer months that attracted large crowds every event.

Also in January, Hitchcocks Auto Parts announced that they were celebrating their centennial, serving the community since 1923. Owner Jesse Escobedo said that the business had thrived because of its customer service. "Chuck told me a long time ago that people can buy parts about anywhere. It is the service that really makes a difference."

Escobedo took that to heart and the store had prospered even in challenging times in the past 100 years. He also said that they would be holding a Customer Appreciation event sometime in the year, showing the community how much they value their loyalty and support throughout the years.

FEBRUARY saw a Bakersfield man charged for the shooting of a Shafter man near the Starbucks store in Shafter. Police in the area and heard the shots and located and detained a possible suspect fleeing the area. Officers then found an adult male suffering from gunshot wounds to his head. It was later revealed that the shooter was Elijah Sanchez; Shafter man Javier Munoz was the victim.

Medical personnel responded and transported the victim to a local hospital for treatment.

Shafter Press Editor Jamie Stewart was at Big Stop Market at the time of the incident. "I heard what I thought were shots. By the time I got to the intersection of West Lerdo Highway and South Wall Street, officers had exited their vehicles with their weapons drawn. They then entered the alleyway that leads to the Starbucks location, telling the suspect, 'Get down on the ground, get down on the ground!' They then took the possible suspect into custody. Sanchez was later charged with attempted murder.

Also in February, Julissa Gonzalez made Shafter High history when she became the first female wrestler to qualify for the State Wrestling Championships. Gonzalez ended the competition with a seventh place medal. Gonzalez is only a freshman and will be looking forward to improving on that and breaking even more records as a General.

MARCH. Emily McGuire was named Shafter's new Distinguished Young Woman, completing a near clean sweep of the awards. McGuire, daughter of Mark and Susan McGuire, and sponsored by Richland Chevrolet, won all of the awards available except for the Scholastic Award, which went to First Alternate Natalie Leyva, and the First Alternate award.

McGuire won the Spirit Award, which is voted on by the participants, the Talent award, Physical Fitness, and Self-Expression awards. She won a total of $2,900 in scholarship money for the event. The event was hosted by KGET's Shannon MacNeil.

APRIL. A celebration was held to put an exclamation point on thie phenomenal season that ended with an appearance in the State Championship game in December.

A ring ceremony was held, and the team was presented with their championship rings.

The event was attended by the players, coaches, family and friends at Shafter's Ford Theater. Head Coach Gerald Pierucci talked to the crowd about the amazing season, telling the gathering that this was an outcome that almost wasn't. "This fairytale post-season wouldn't have happened at all without the wisdom of my wife, Jodie."

MAY saw the return of the Cinco de Mayo celebration to the city of Shafter, resulting in a crowd of over 1,000 people. The celebration kicked off with a downtown parade that came down Central Avenue, with local news anchor Jose Gaspar as its master of ceremonies. Gaspar welcomed the large crowd to "the triumphant return of the Cinco de Mayo Celebration, after a two year hiatus due to the covid-19 pandemic."

JUNE. The eighth grade class of Richland Junior High took their last bows as Trojans, transitioning to their status as incoming Shafter Generals on Thursday night, receiving their diplomas at the Shafter High School football stadium.

Richland Superintendent Rosa Romero congratulated the graduates on all of their hard work and dedication. Romero said, "I want you to remind you of the importance of this moment. Graduating from Richland Junior High is not only a culmination of your academic achievements, but also a celebration of your growth as an individual."

She also encouraged them to embrace new challenges, continue to learn, and never be afraid to ask for help. She congratulated them and told them to take pride in this moment, of their accomplishments, and look forward to all of the promising opportunities that lie ahead.

Every year, Richland Junior High selects a Tommy and Tammy Trojan, who help with the ceremonies and activities. This year, Tommy and Tammy Trojan were Rey Villalobos and Thanya Galindo.

Valedictorian Brooklyn Allred and Salutatorian Camilla Acosta Serrato also spoke at the event. Serrato spoke about the goal that she had in mind when she embarked on her junior high journey. "I wanted to walk wearing a golden gown like my brother." She said that she knew that it was going to be hard, but she stuck it out. Serrato didn't dream that she would ever be named Salutatorian. "I just thought that I would graduate with a golden gown and cord. That was it. I never imagined that my efforts would pay off to this amount. This just proves that you cannot only achieve your goals if you really want to, you can exceed them."

Shafter High seniors walked across the stage at the SHS football stadium as their last official act as Shafter High students, completing their high school education, moving on to bigger and better things.

Principal Russell Shipley welcomed the crowd of students, staff, friends and family to the commencement exercises. Each student was seen entering the stadium on the new video scoreboard at the football stadium, giving family members a chance to see their graduate on the big screen.

Senior Class President Audrey Chavez spoke at the ceremony, taLking about the challenges they faced during their time at Shafter High, including wading through the pandemic, getting through the online classes, and going back to school their junior year, having to learn how to be together again. She also thanked her teachers, her parents, and her friends for making these four years so special. "It all seems to go by so fast in the end. Before we knew it, we were receiving our caps and gowns, awaiting those last few days till graduation. Well, the wait is over, we're here, graduation day. I could not be more proud of this year's 2023 graduates."

Every year, the Stringham awards are given out to the top four seniors in the class, based on their cumulative GPA for the tenth through twelfth grades. This year, there were six students that received awards because there were three students who tied at the top with a perfect 4.5 GPA.

Ranked fourth was Laura Neufeld with a 4.246 GPA. Third in the class was Dafne Corral.

Second in the class was Hailey Castro with a 4.346. Tying at the top of the class were Erik DeJesus Rodriguez, Cassandra Gutierrez and Charlotte Franz.


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