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Jumping into another arena

June 20, 2003

Lolita Harper

The students of Newport Harbor High's class of 2003 grew anxious to

accept their diplomas and bid a bittersweet farewell to their alma

mater as they sat in their rows on Davidson Field.

Principal Michael Vossen acknowledged the parents and the

outstanding teaching staff for their roles in the students' successes

-- accomplishments that reach far beyond highly publicized athletic

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achievements. He praised the hundreds of individual triumphs that

took place on that campus throughout the year.

"Newport Harbor has become a remarkable institution," Vossen said.

"We are truly blessed."

Anthony Nichols and James Richardson were on hand to pay a special

tribute to senior Michael Brian Richardson. Nichols, Richardson and

two other 19-year-olds were shirtless at the graduation ceremony,

with large black letters spelling out M-I-K-E across their stomachs.

They couldn't get enough people for Michael, the foursome said.

The graduate's older brother, James Richardson, who described

himself as notorious, had very brotherly advice for Mike.

"Seriously, learn from my mistakes, and do really well," he said.

"He's going to be great. He really is going to be great. You'll see."

Valedictorian Stephen Sharma said he would spare his classmates

the usual "sappy cliches and overused expressions" all too typical of

graduation ceremonies. Instead, he would recount a story from his

freshman year and "maybe everyone here will connect with it too."

Sharma told the story of his first cross-country race, in which he

realized somewhere on the course that he was lost. He was searching

for a way to go, trying to find other runners, but found himself

alone and off course.

"I just ran," Sharma said. "I moved in a new direction, away from

where I was to somewhere new."

Time spent at Newport Harbor was similar to a race, one he can say

he finished, but not without a fair share of hurdles.

"We have one race behind us and another one just starting," Sharma

said. "I'm sure we will all get lost again. ... We have to keep

running and always find your way back on course and finish."

Once finished, members of the class of 2003 will not be remembered

for their high-paying jobs or status on the socioeconomic ladder,

Vossen said. They will be remembered for the kind of mother, father,

daughter, sister, brother and friend they were.

"For simply being there for someone else," Vossen said, "this is

how you will be remembered."

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