Santa Monica High School — affectionately known to most as Samohi — has been home base for tens of thousands of Santa Monica teens going back more than 130 years. It’s been a place to learn math and science, make art, study English and history, and enjoy social and sporting events since 1891.

But over the years, campus has changed.

It moved from 6th Street to 11th Street and, finally, to its permanent home on 4th Street exactly 110 years ago in 1912. Over the years, the present campus has grown and changed.

The Class of 2022 has experienced some of the most extensive campus changes in the past half-century, with the opening of the Discovery Building this past August.

The building includes 42 classrooms that house adaptable learning spaces, allowing teachers to expand their classes beyond the walls of their classroom and easily enable break-out groups and teamwork. There are raised platforms, groups of couches, projectors, circular tables and desk spaces in the building’s common areas.

The new building joins the recently constructed Innovation Building, which opened six years earlier in 2015.

Aided by stellar facilities, Samohi continued its long tradition of high marks in 2022.

Not only are members of the Class of 2022 going off to high-ranking institutions including Cal, Princeton, the University of Michigan and MIT — to name but a few — but Samohi once again ranked among the top high schools in California, coming in at number 108, according to the U.S. News and World Report. That institution also ranked Samohi in the top six percent of high schools nationwide, at 829.

Another ranking body, Niche, called the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District the overall best place to teach in LA County in 2022.

“Ranking factors include teacher salaries, teacher tenure, teacher absenteeism, student teacher ratio, as well as the district’s Niche grades for overall, administration, safety, and resources,” according to Niche. For its part, Samohi was ranked the 15th-best public high school in the County, according to Niche — out of 444 public high schools across the Los Angeles area.

At graduation on Wednesday, Samohi’s outgoing principal Antonio Shelton gave graduating seniors advice: Make connections. Be kind.

“Be kind to those that you encounter and this kindness will follow you,” Shelton said.

“Spread[ing] kindness and love is not difficult to do. It is something that can easily be shared throughout your life.”

Shelton said he would be departing Samohi to take a leadership role in the District, and Samohi I House Principal Marae Cruce would step up to the principal role beginning in the fall. 

The 2021-22 school year signaled a year of not only continued academic excellence but also a return to normalcy for most Santa Monica students. Classes resumed in-person in the fall and, by the springtime, mask rules had dropped and large events were back. Seniors showed off their stellar fashion sense and style at prom earlier this June and crossed the stage at graduation just this week, followed by partying all night at grad nite. Athletes competed on the court and in the pool, on the field and in the ocean, on the track and in the gym. And they found success. Boys water polo made it to quarter finals. Girls soccer went to CIF playoffs — for their fourth year running. The girls wrestling team earned an academic team championship for their high overall grade point average. Again and again, Vikings athletes distinguished themselves on and off the field of play.

But transitioning, first to remote learning and then back into classrooms, was not without its challenges. Senior Class President Hanna de la Rosa Rosales spoke to her class’ strength and perseverance during an address at Wednesday evening’s graduation ceremony. “As we embark on to the next stage in our life, I’d like to reflect on the unique high school experience that we shared. To begin, our only normal year was freshman year,” Rosales said. 

“This was a confusing time but we made it through. Then, as we were finally settling in, our sophomore year was halted due to COVID. At first, it seemed like nothing and, frankly, I enjoyed not having any finals that year. 

“The fun quickly stopped when junior year consisted of taking difficult classes virtually, having flex times online and tests over Zoom,” she continued. “I know I can speak for everyone when I say that it was difficult getting up in the morning just to sit and stare at a computer screen for eight hours straight and then even more hours in the afternoon for homework — all of this with no social interaction to compensate and a lack of connection within our class. Junior year is difficult enough without the barriers that we had. 

“And yet, every single one of us was able to finish and finally begin our senior year,” Rosales said. “While our senior year was filled with uncertainty and many restrictions, we were finally able to see each other in person and feel a renewed sense of normality. At 17 or 18 years old, we face many important life decisions and changes. This can be very overwhelming, which is why I’d like to express that as a member of this graduating class, every single student here is beyond resilient. Especially to the students of color in this crowd: I salute your ability to stand here today, despite the systems that are put in place in the country built to restrain us. People and systems bet against us, every single day. And yet here we are.