LAS CRUCES – After a year of preparation, hundreds of students from the Class of 2020 finally walked on stage, wearing caps and gowns to celebrate their high school graduation.
Although each of the six high schools in Las Cruces public schools held driving graduation ceremonies in 2020, many graduates were eager to have a ‘normal’ experience.
The district kept a promise from the late Superintendent Karen Trujillo and welcomed the Class of 2020 to a traditional graduation event Thursday at Centennial High School.
âIt’s really a feeling of closure, because we didn’t really have that towards the end of the year,â said Gabrielle Rosales, a Mayfield High School graduate. “Now that we’ve done that, it’s like we can finally give up our high school years.”
About 300 students from the Class of 2020 showed up at the event in person, or about 20% of all students in the district who graduated that year.
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Ahead of the graduation of the Class of 2020 on Thursday, the district held a ceremony for the 91 summer graduates of the Class of 2021.
Las Cruces High graduate Natalia Kolosseus said it was the first time they had been seen or mingled with many of their classmates since schools became remote in March 2020 to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus SARS CoV-2, which causes COVID-19 disease.
When schools became remote, all traditional events, including graduation, prom and senior ditch day, were dismissed due to the pandemic. By the time many of these events made a comeback in 2021, after schools returned for full re-entry in early April, the class of 2020 was long gone.
âIt was so unfinished,â said Miranda Garcia, LCHS graduate. âWe did 12 years of the hardest work of our lives not to get the best part at the very end. That’s what was really difficult. I think we all have scar tissue because of it.â
â(The drive-thru) didn’t look good to me,â said OÃ±ate High School graduate Christopher Madrid. “It was just like all this work was for nothing, just to get a drive-thru. But now that we actually have a ceremony, it seems appropriate.”
Many graduates walked for their families and for themselves.
“I feel like we’re finally recognized for (our graduation) and they’re actually doing something for us,” said Celia Acosta, graduate of Las Cruces high school and former class president. senior. “My parents were so excited. My sister, she has a disability, so she won’t go to college. For us, walking together was such a great accomplishment.”
A warm ceremony
Jim Schapekahm, principal of the recently rebranded Organ Mountain High School (that was OÃ±ate in 2020 and 2021), advised students to focus on what they gained “through this trip”, rather than what was lost.
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âIt doesn’t matter if you are a Bulldawg, or a Hawk, or a Golden Eagle, or a Knight or a Trojan or a Trailblazer. You all survived. And because we believe in all of you, we know that you will continue to do great things, âhe said.
Mireya SÃ¡nchez-Maes, Mayfei Major of 2020, delivered a powerful speech in front of her fellow graduates.
âGuys, I know this is going to sound really weird, but I swear we graduated last year,â Mireya said to begin her speech.
Mireya highlighted first-generation high school graduates, students who worked while in high school, and bilingual graduates by asking each group to stand up.
âNot only did we graduate from high school juggling and family responsibilities, but we kept pushing even after we graduated,â Mireya said. “That’s why we get two degrees: because we’re tough guys, resilient, versatile and bilingual, who achieved something great, even when the world was falling apart. We achieve something great when the odds were against us. “
Karen Trujillo’s legacy
Wendi Miller-Tomlinson, assistant superintendent of teaching, learning and research at LCPS, at the ceremony, said the district had not forgotten Trujillo’s pledge to hold an awards ceremony. appropriate diplomas.
âIt took a while, but today, July 1, 2021, our state is fully open. And we’re finally here to celebrate you, Class of 2020,â Miller-Tomlinson said.
Read more:Governor Lujan Grisham announces New Mexico will remove COVID-19 restrictions and reopen on July 1
Trujillo died suddenly after being hit by a car on February 25 while walking her dogs. His death deeply affected the community and many people at the graduation ceremony on Thursday had tears in their eyes.
Miranda and Natalia both said they were close to Trujillo and his family.
âShe really wanted to give something to this course because her daughter was also graduating in 2020,â Miranda said. âI think a lot of people who knew her do it for her, in memory of her. It’s really important, especially for people like us who love being close to her, to know that we can do it for her is very important to us.
“It’s more important that we do this for her, than anything else.”
âShe tried so hard for the drive-thru,â Natalia said. “Karen Trujillo, she really did a lot of work on this record, just to get something for us.”
Miranda Cyr, a member of the Report for America Corps, can be contacted at [email protected] or @mirandabcyr on Twitter. Show your support for the Report for America program at https://bit.ly/LCSNRFA.