Although only two students received the official School Pride Award at Friday’s Estrellita High School commencement ceremony, it was clear through their speeches and introductions that most of the 80 graduates possessed school spirit.
It was 104 degrees at step off. Many audience members moved the brown folding chairs sitting in the sun to the small patch of shade created by the campus buildings. A trio in the sun opened umbrellas to shield themselves.
The heat didn’t go unnoticed as principal Tony Lara opened the commencement ceremony, pledging to move the event along. He then turned his attention to the graduates calling them “amazing” several times in the short speech.
“They are hardworking and dedicated,” the 12-year principal said. “Tonight they will get their diplomas, and they have earned it. You all make Estrellita proud.”
Many, including student speaker Kaileen Morris, overcame hardships most high school students don’t face.
Without identifying the person, she spoke of a girl who started well, earning good grades and going to classes. But she got wrapped up in drugs and alcohol and was ready to give up.
“Then you realize there’s so much more to the book of your life than to get stuck on that page,” Morris said. “That girl sobered up and starting looking at herself. She was able to focus on the opportunities in front of her.”
The speaker decided to go to Estrellita, she said, because she needed help.
“I am so much better than I used to be,” Morris said.
Morris, who received a standing ovation after her speech, may have spoken for some other continuation students in her closing words: “If it wasn’t for this principal allowing me and my crazy personality to go to this school, I would not be here. I would not have lived past the age of 16 and would not be who I am today.”
Fellow speaker Merissa Felix also thanked the school’s staff, especially teachers who got to know the students and understand what they were going through.
Other students were recognized, including Chantae White, who was presented the Leadership Award by English teacher Kim Wilson, and Evelyn Meza, one of two students bestowed Teachers’ Awards. The other was Jose Sandoval.
“(Meza) made me a better teacher, and I mean that,” Brendan Moore said in his presentation, adding that the student spent third period helping him write new curriculum.
Both embodied what it takes to succeed at Estrellita, he said, and that is persistence.
Earlier, thousands of dollars in scholarships were doled out during the ceremony, something that didn’t escape Lara.
“As you can see,” he said in addressing the students, “You are well supported in moving forward. Make sure you keep moving forward.”
Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at email@example.com.