SAN DIEGO — Thousands of San Diego County seniors, from nearly 30 schools, graduated high school on Friday. Marking the first traditional graduation season since the COVID-19 pandemic began. These families had much to celebrate.
Graduate Naomi Hills at El Cajon Valley High School said, “I honestly feel great, like I finally made it. I came a long way.”
That’s what these graduation ceremonies make these kids and their families think about: the journey.
Betty Mendez from El Cajon Valley High was 15 years old when she had her son Giovani. Mendez said, “I had a choice of being a student and graduating or becoming a mom. And I decided to take care of my son. And now we're here 18 years later and we're celebrating.”
Giovani smiled wide as he walked across the stage. He said, “Made it finally, walked that stage and I did it myself.”
Everyone is celebrating and looking to what’s next. When you meet teenagers like new graduate Benjamin Mallory, you feel like these kids are ready to take on the world.
Mallory is going to Baylor University in Texas for mechanical engineering. He’s the oldest of 5 five kids and said he felt emotional at the ceremony. He said, “The whole time I was trying to stay in the moment. Take it all in. But it was just too much.”
“The amount of effort, crying, energy, motivation, late nights I’ve put into this. It feels unreal, to be honest,” Mallory said.
Mallory along with the other graduates spent nearly two years out of the classroom due to COVID.
"I'm not going to lie. There were many times when I thought, 'is this really necessary?' A lot of self-doubt," said Mallory.
Giovani agreed it was a huge challenge. He said, “Not having that one-on-one with the teacher. Thank you to all my teachers, Mr. Suza, Mr. Cliff. Everybody that’s helped me.”
These are the graduates, the dreamers, the overcomers, the Class of 2022.
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