"Just like a special coin or a special car, you're a limited edition," Feldman told his 21 graduates who experienced the school's beginning and end.
High Tech High Bayshore is closing this year because its enrollment was not bringing in enough money to keep the school running and to purchase its building at 890 Broadway in Redwood City.
Before leadership was taken over by the San Diego-based High Tech High corporation in 2005, it went by the name of San Carlos High a school started by a group of community members. Operating out of an office building in San Carlos, the school's leaders had hoped High Tech High would get it out of financial peril. But in February, High Tech High corporation officials dropped a bomb on parents, teachers and students when they told them the school would have to close. High Tech High, which started a new class each year, finally got its graduating seniors, but it was a bittersweet celebration.
Feldman told the graduates, who all will beattending college in the fall, that they have become more "powerful and resilient" because of all the extreme challenges and changes they have experienced over the years.
But for valedictorian Caroline Howland, this emotional day wasn't that easy.
After starting her speech by telling her classmates, "Today is a day to celebrate," she broke down in tears.
After daubing her eyes and catching her breath, she continued.
"We are like a family, a family I will treasure for the rest of my life," said Howland, who will attend Westmont College. "Though this journey has not been easy, it's definitely been worthwhile."
While it's sad the school is closing, graduate Joshua Krauss said he has no regrets.
"Everyone graduating knows that we got something amazing out of this experience," said Krauss, who will attend the University of Illinois next fall.
The students are already planning a reunion, senior class president David Burghgraef said. He hopes to organize a gathering for both the school, as well as just the senior class, sometime next year.
"This is the closest community I've ever been involved with," said Burghgraef, who will attend Calvin College to study pre-med.
While everyone was saying their goodbyes at High Tech High Bayshore, students, teachers and leaders at another charter high school only a few miles away were celebrating their success Friday.
It was also Summit Preparatory High School's first graduation, but unlike High Tech High Bayshore, officials there anticipate a bright future for the charter school.
Seventy Summit students were slated to receive their diplomas at the commencement ceremony Friday night and all the graduates are scheduled to attend college in the fall, said executive director Diane Tavenner. About 66 percent of the graduates are the first in their family to go to college, she said.
The school opened four years ago with just 78 students and has grown to 370.
The students have scored high on state standardized tests, and school officials have managed to get the Sequoia Union High School District to provide it with adequate facilities. In fact, the building High Tech High Bayshore is moving out of likely will become Summit's home, since the school district purchased the building.
"It's really exciting to be at the point where we're achieving our mission. We're doing exactly what we had hoped for," Tavenner said. "It's such a proud moment. This is what we all have been working hard for."