Santa Maria TimesFrom the moment then-freshman Devlin Vicars stepped foot onto the brand-new campus at Central Coast New Tech High School in Nipomo four years ago, he knew he had found his place to shine.He was greeted with “hellos” and “how are yous” across the small school, something the Arroyo Grande resident had never experienced at other campuses, both locally and across the state.That sense of community and family the shy teen felt as he embarked on his academic journey at the then-fledgling high school centered on project-based learning was something Vicars needed in his life, whether he knew it then or not.“It’s bittersweet,” Vicars said about graduating Saturday morning from New Tech High with 76 fellow seniors, all of whom he knows.The ceremony marks the school’s inaugural commencement event, and Vicars was chosen by his classmates to be speaker-at-large for the historic occasion.It’s an honor that has yet to sink in. His speech was due Thursday and he’d yet to even put a draft together the day prior, he said with a laugh.“I can’t just pick one,” Vicars said about what he wants to speak about during his two to three minutes onstage that will sum up four years of learning, growing and living at a high school he “loves with a passion.”“It’s still unreal to me,” he added. “I was sitting in class … (when they were making the announcements) and was like, ‘I’m not going to get it. I’m not going to get it.’ They said my name. That’s insane.”Since the first day Vicars walked onto campus, he has watched New Tech High transform from a small pod of buildings in the middle of a dusty field that opened to some 100 ninth-graders in August 2012 into a buzzing campus of 326 students and multiple buildings, complete with a grassy athletic field, that it is today.During his time at New Tech High, Vicars also has changed as a person, he said.The 18-year-old started his freshman year as a shy, awkward kid who slouched in his desk and sat in the back row of his classes at Arroyo Grande High School. He aimed to get B’s and C’s but nothing much higher. While at New Tech, he aimed for a 4.0 and achieved it. The teen realized he had potential he didn’t even know existed in him through his experiences at the school, he said.Today, he’s a confident young man who sits up straight at his desk, which is now at the front of the class, speaks well and looks forward to answering teachers’ questions. He’s inquisitive, articulate and bright. Vicars also has a plan for the future, and he said he owes much of it to the staff and students at New Tech, as well as the community that supports the innovative school.“A teacher would have to force an answer out of me,” Vicars said about the type of student he was before New Tech High. “I have definitely changed a lot as a person. Sometimes you can’t get me to shut up.”Vicars attended AGHS for a semester as a freshman at his parents’ request before transferring to the school in Nipomo. He said he immediately knew the high school in Arroyo Grande wasn’t the place for him, just as he knew New Tech was the place, where failures are celebrated as much as successes.“Teenagers are so hard on themselves,” Vicars said. “I never thought I’d overcome my insecurities, especially at a school. What I’m going to miss the most is seeing the students. Their smiles when they get something right … and everyone finally seeing what they can do.”Vicars plans to attend California State University, Chico in the fall. After completing his four-year degree, Vicars would like to transfer to Cal Poly to earn a master’s degree in business administration. From there, he plans to earn a Ph.D. in business administration.

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