The energy in the wide courtyard was exuberant as the class of 2016 graduates joked around, filing into the Veterans’ Memorial Building on Thursday, June 2. For the students and families attending, the San Andreas Continuation High School graduation ceremony was a tremendously happy occasion.
In lieu of a valedictorian, San Andreas staff chose four hardworking students to speak at the ceremony. Nick Lust, a teacher at San Andreas, explained: “We don’t want to have just one voice representing the student body here. Instead we will have a number of students speaking about their experiences here at San Andreas.”
The importance of experiences– those of the individual students, and of the student body together– were highlighted throughout the event. Many of San Andreas’ attendees had encountered difficulties while they were San Benito High School students. Graduating student Anissa Orta was one of the four students chosen to speak, and in her farewell message she thanked the entire San Andreas faculty, including the janitorial staff. Orta said, “Leaving San Benito High School was the best decision I ever made,” she told the audience. This opinion resonated with many of the students who spoke. Josefina Linares admitted to the crowd, “Before I came here, I thought San Andreas was the school where the bad kids were sent.” She went on to thank the faculty and staff, then her parents and family in Spanish.
Esmeralda Fregoso was one of four students to receive a college scholarship from San Andreas. She spoke to the crowd about the importance of her young son in her personal growth and journey toward graduation. She ended her heartfelt goodbye by saying, “I’m proud of my son. And I’m proud of myself.” The other students to receive scholarships of $100 were Analisa Chavez and Stephanie Ortiz.
The graduation ceremony seemed especially bittersweet this year. Early in the proceedings, everyone was asked to take a moment and remember the life and work of Rosalinda Rojas, who passed away earlier this year. Rojas had been a longtime staff member at San Andreas, and the students honored her passing with a round of applause.
Near the end of the ceremony, it was mentioned that San Andreas Principal Colleen Grimes would retiring this year. Despite heavy hearts, the students and staff sent her off with a standing ovation and the best of wishes. When asked about her retirement after the ceremony, Grimes replied, “It’s their special day, not mine.I didn’t want to focus on me.” Asked about her plans for the future, Grimes said she is looking forward to continuing with educational interests but is open to new activities as well. “I’ve only been working here 39 years, but who’s counting?”
For Mitchell Dabo, Board of Education president, there were just a few words to leave with the students before they departed into their next phase of life.Dabo told the graduates: “The measure of who you are is what you do with what you have.”