Multiple principals. Half a year without a principal. Protests. State board intervention. Bomb cyclones — and a severe case of senioritis.
Those are some of the things the 305 students who graduated from Adams City High School on Saturday say they went through to get their diploma.
“I’m ecstatic,” new graduate Alexus Bautista said Saturday. “It feels like it’s been so long.”
Two years ago, students walked out in protest, tired of not having a say in their school’s future and of not having a stable school leader.
And this year started with news that the school hadn’t made the necessary improvements to get out of the state’s crosshairs. In fact, achievement at the school had dropped, meaning the school and the Adams 14 school district would both face consequences from the state. The State Board of Education asked the district to hire an outside manager. But the process has stretched out through the entire school year, and now, as students graduate, what the school will look like next year remains somewhat of a mystery.
“Despite the obstacles thrown into our path,” the class of 2019 kept getting back up, valedictorian Jaime Wickersheim said in her speech. “Together we rose to greatness.”
Despite its label as one of the lowest performing schools in the state, students at the school have recorded some accomplishments. As a class, the graduating students have secured $1.5 million in scholarships, and almost all have been accepted into a two- or four-year college. The school’s culinary arts team took first place in a state competition and is moving on to compete nationally. Three graduating seniors are finalists for a prestigious Daniels Fund scholarship, and a handful of other students have enlisted to join the military, including Bautista, who’s leaving to join the Navy this summer.
Several students say they pushed themselves to get through.
“It’s just a matter of fixing yourself,” said Jacob Marquez, 17. “I feel like when you do, it makes you more independent.”
Other students pointed to specific teachers and staff members who got them through rough times during high school.
For Domonique Contreras, 18, it was Laura, she said, an attendance liaison who believed in her and helped motivate her to keep going to school, even when the school felt really unorganized.
“She knows my family, and she told me she knew I could do better,” Contreras said. “She knew I was so close.”
Salma Gomez said one of her counselors, Mr. Duran, helped her graduate a year early.
“It was hard emotionally. I had a lot of internal struggle,” Gomez said. “But he was just there and helped me get everything together so I could get out of there.”
Despite the excitement of their own achievement, some students said they sometimes worry what the school might hold for their younger siblings, and some said it was part of their motivation to set an example for their families to follow.
During the ceremony, student body president Angela Herrera took a moment to address Latino parents in Spanish.
She thanked them, as she choked back her own tears, for their sacrifices as immigrants who brought their children to this country, where they have tried to learn a difficult language and where they don’t always have “the luxury” to attend their children’s school events. But they helped make sure their children were fed and had a roof over their head, she said.
Parents in the stands wiped away at tears and later gave her some of the loudest cheers.
“Sin su apoyo, no podríamos tener nuestras alas para volar,” Herrera said, which in English means: “Without your support, we wouldn’t have our wings to fly.”