It’s been more than a year since all of the seniors of Christopher High School have been on campus at the same time. So when their graduation practice session concluded early on June 3, the 340 graduates didn’t want to leave, preferring to stay and hang out with their fellow classmates.
That worked out well for a team of more than 40 volunteers on site, as it gave them more time to prepare, cook and serve over 400 to-go meals filled with garlicky cuisine.
The Christopher Family Foundation partnered with Christopher High School and local community volunteers to provide a graduation lunch event for the CHS Class of 2021 following their commencement rehearsal. The event included garlic-inspired food dishes as well as Gilroy Strong shirts, hats and photo opportunities.
On the menu was pepper steak sandwiches, pesto, shrimp scampi and garlic bread, cooked by pyro chefs with the help of the team at Kneaded Bakery and other volunteers.
Principal Jeremy Dirks said the school was “really, really appreciative” of the efforts, especially the students, who cheered when they learned of the lunch.
“We at CHS are grateful for the generosity of the Christopher family,” he said. “Our students have missed out on so much their senior year, and this event for them is a special treat.”
Dirks said Christopher High has 340 graduates for the Class of 2021, which will participate in its first in-person ceremony since 2019 on June 4.
“This is to renew their spirits and for them to know they are valued,” he said.
The Christopher Family Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Christopher Ranch, which focuses on supporting local community service and educational organizations, among other causes.
“We’re focused on providing unique support for local youth in any way we can, recognizing the challenges they’ve gone through and the impact the last year has had on them,” Foundation board member Harald Vaernes said. “This is an opportunity to recognize the achievements they’ve made and the hurdles they’ve overcome. We truly appreciate the support of our volunteers to help make this event happen. There’s no better way to celebrate than through our shared love of all things garlic.”
Also treated to lunch were Christopher High administrators and the volunteers.
Christopher Ranch Executive Vice President Ken Christopher said the shirts, emblazoned with “Gilroy Strong” across the front, serve as a rebranding of the community movement that began after the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting in 2019. The shirts are now light blue, rather than the original black and white color, representing a “lighter, brighter, more optimistic future,” he said.
“It’s our hope these kids will wear these shirts proudly through their lives,” Christopher said. “They can come to next year’s Garlic Festival and show up with these, representing what Gilroy can be, not what Gilroy was.”
The event kicked off what is known as the “Summer of Garlic,” Christopher said, which will feature several garlic-themed philanthropic and community events throughout the summer.