Napa Valley RegisterBy Howard YuneIt would be a celebration big on family feeling, if small on numbers.New Technology High School’s Wednesday evening send-off to its Class of 2018 would honor its 80 newest graduates – a fraction of the hundreds of teenage counterparts from Napa and Vintage High School who would receive their diplomas the next day. But for some of those stepping into adulthood, the day would have no less weight for the gathering’s intimate size.“Since we’re such a small group, I was able to bond in a deeper way; I have a stronger connection to (classmates) than I would have at a bigger school,” said Emily Castañeda as she arrived at Memorial Stadium in her purple cap and gown.A place awaits her this autumn at the University of California, Davis, where she plans to study political science. But graduation was a final chance to be with a group that had come to feel almost as family-like as the actual family and friends arriving to celebrate with her, nearly 30 in all.“I think I can say I know everyone in my class, and describe who everyone is,” Castañeda said with a smile, the early evening sun glinting off the “2018” ornament on her mortarboard tassel.Meanwhile, one member of an actual family in the stadium was feeling wistful and proud of his daughter all at once.“Oh man, I’m happy about this! We have the signs; we have everything,” said Robert Vega as he and his family arrived to see his daughter Jessica – whose face adorned several signs they carried by the armful – receive her diploma.Life after high school would take Jessica farther from Napa than for many of her classmates; this fall she is slated to go with her older sister to nursing school in Puerto Rico, at the Universidad Adventista de las Antillas in Mayagüez.“I’m getting ready to become an empty-nester now,” said Robert Vega, a nursing manager who lives in American Canyon. “You want to see your kids succeed but you don’t want to see them leave the house – circle of life, I guess.”Ninety percent of New Tech’s graduates will enroll at four- or two-year colleges in the fall, according to Principal Riley Johnson. 

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