June 7, 2019, 6 p.m.
Temecula Valley High School
Riverside County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Judy D. White and Principal Michael Hubbard gather with graduates in the gym prior to the start of the ceremony. Seventy-three students in Rancho Vista High School and Temecula Valley Adult School overcame numerous obstacles to reach their goal of earning a diploma on June 7, 2019.
Rancho Vista student Daniela Martinez shares her personal story with the crowd gathered at Golden Bear Theater at Temecula Valley High School. “It’s not the good days that define us, it’s the bad ones that do by the way we overcome them,” commented Daniela. “Students at an alternative or continuation school have challenges that must be met or overcome. But we are capable and can break stereotypes that we are lazy, unmotivated, and not smart. That is not our truth.”
Eric Ruiz from Rancho Vista High School was selected as the student speaker from the Class of 2019. He recalled that when he arrived at the school, he only had 45 credits. However, he graduated three months early with over 275 credits. He stated that commencement is the first step in life. He and his classmates have closed a chapter in the story of their lives and will begin writing a new chapter through higher education, career, or military service. “I am proud to graduate from Rancho Vista,” said Eric.
After being on top of his game his freshman and sophomore year at a traditional high school, Brandon Rodriquez found himself in a deep depression and fell from top student and athlete to a high school drop out. His aunt’s advice during his mental health crisis pulled him through, she said, “It’s okay to slow down as long as you don’t quit.” He did just that taking time off of school to seek counseling and re-enrolling later at Temecula Valley Adult School. As the selected student speaker for his school, he wished his classmates well as they start a new adventure in life!
California School for the Deaf, Riverside
June 6, 2019, 6 p.m.
CSDR – Multi-purpose Activity Center
Seniors Serenity Fry, Jared Herman, and Ciara Williams sign the Star Spangled Banner at the opening of the commencement ceremony for the California School for the Deaf, Riverside. The 35 graduates from the Class of 2019 come from various cities in the 12 Southern California counties that the school serves. Graduation represents the fulfillment of the class motto: “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it, if you can dream it, you will become it.” Congratulations, Class of 2019!
Salutatorian Jared Herman delivers his address to his classmates and commencement attendees. He served as the Director of Communications for the Associated Student Body government, cheerleading co-coach, and an ASL singer in the campus scout troop. Riverside County recognized him as one of its “25 Most Remarkable Teens.” In sharing his experience at CSDR, Jared remarked, “Before I moved here, my life was so ordinary. Now it’s extraordinary…because this school has made it so – the faculty, and most importantly, my family and friends. Jared will attend Gallaudet University, the premier institution of learning, teaching, and research for deaf and hard-of-hearing students, in Washington, D.C. this fall.
Because of the small graduating class size and close-knit community of the California School for the Deaf, Riverside, each of the 35 graduates had the opportunity to share a message with the audience after receiving their diploma. Sidney Ho, who is from Los Angeles, thanks her parents for their love and support during high school. She also expressed gratitude to the faculty and staff of CSDR for creating a supportive, challenging, and exciting learning environment for students. Because students come from various cities in Southern California, the campus has a residential life program from Sunday evening to Friday afternoon with Elementary, Middle, High School and Special Needs cottages.
Valedictorian Spencer Willey was a proud 4-year member of six consecutive Academic Bowl Regional Champions. He was a leader for the Jr. National Association of the Deaf as President for two years, and Associated Student Body government as Director of Athletics. He was also formidable in sports competing in varsity football, basketball and baseball. He will attend Gallaudet University in the fall to major in History and Government. “I want to thank CSDR for the opportunities that they offered me during my four years here! Without the great support that I got from my parents, teachers, educational advisors, and even the superintendent, I would not get this far,” commented Spencer.
Norco High School
June 4, 2019, 7 p.m.
Norco High – Gary Campbell Football Field
Norco High School Class of 2019 graduates Alyssa McLane (left) and Sierra Martinez (right) recalled their first days on campus feeling so lost on a huge campus as freshman and never thought graduation would arrive for them. Over their four years, the campus experience came to feel like more of a family where long-lasting friendships developed. Both students graduated with high honors and will pursue careers in nursing—Alyssa at California Baptist University and Sierra at West Coast University.
As if graduation day wasn’t enough of a celebration for Norco High Senior Class President, Nolan Bean, he was regaled with a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday” by his fellow graduates before giving the speech he admitted to dreaming about since 6th grade. He encouraged his fellow graduates “to care about each other despite our differences” and “to never forget the lessons of high school and take pride in your upbringing.” He reminded students that they don’t have to be the best or smartest, they just have to be their best selves and be present. Nolan returned to his seat with a handful of birthday balloons delivered to the podium at the conclusion of his speech.
“Tonight is what lights our path to the future,” is how Alan Do, one of four salutatorians from the Norco High School’s Class of 2019, described the importance of graduation. His address to the nearly 500 graduates and a packed football stadium of friends and family began with sharing how his first years at the school were marked by his self-consciousness and shyness. Over time, Alan came to recognize that school was more than just about grades and education and described how he learned that high school is about “connecting with people to help bring out the best in all of us.”
Norco High School Class of 2019 Valedictorian Felipe Rios expressed his appreciation to his parents and family in Spanish during his graduation speech. Felipe used his time at the podium to selflessly recognize fellow graduates who helped him succeed in high school. He challenged the Class of 2019 to recognize that “it’s up to us to be addressing the things that are deteriorating in our world.” In the fall, he will attend the University of California, Irvine.
Alvord Alternative, Alvord Continuation High School & Alvord Community Adult Education
June 3, 2019, 6 p.m.
Alvord High School
Jaime Celis almost didn’t make it to graduation day at Alvord Continuation High School. She attended for two years and almost gave up on herself. “I decided that there was no way I was going to give up because all that work would have been a waste of time for my teachers and for me,” Jaime said. “I can’t believe I’m up here grabbing that diploma!” Jaime intends to enlist in the army and become a member of the infantry.
Jade Trujillo, Cynthia Avalos, and Karen Flores have been friends since 6th grade at Wells Middle School in Alvord USD. Jade has moved to Arizona and has plans to become a therapist. Cynthia and Karen are enrolling in North-West College in Riverside to pursue careers in nursing. All three graduates appreciated the small size of Alvord Alternative Continuation High School and how teachers would sit with them and go over concepts until they understood it.
Alvord Continuation High School Class of 2019 Graduate Vanessa Carreon addressed her fellow graduates as one of the student speakers. She implored students to “embrace our imperfections because that’s how we made it to graduation day.” She continued by thanking the staff at the school for helping her mature and become adults “so that we can take on the world.”
Mario Joya served as a student speaker for his fellow graduates from Alvord Alternative Continuation High School on Monday, June 3. He encouraged all graduates with the idea that “it takes a lot of courage to be the best you can be.” Mario was also named a Riverside County Top Scholar (read Mario’s inspirational story) as one of the top students from alternative and continuation high schools in the county.
Banning High School, Banning Unified School District
May 31, 2019, 6 p.m.
Banning High Stadium
Riverside County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Judy D. White joins approximately 200 Banning Broncos for graduation on Friday, May 31 at Banning High School Stadium. Prior to the processional, Dr. White spent some time with soon-to-be graduates to discuss future plans of college, career, or military service.
Jasani Dream Seymour was recognized by Principal Matthew Valdivia during his Principal’s address at the start of the graduation ceremony. Jasani received a special plaque for her twelve years of perfect attendance. During that time, she earned a Seal of Biliteracy, participated in dual enrollment at Mount San Jacinto College, and graduated two years early with honors!
Attending Banning High School for her first and last year was Associated Student Body (ASB) President Rosie Lawyer. She thanked her classmates for being welcomed to the school and particularly enjoyed her year with the band. Rosie also had the opportunity to serve in every single ASB p osition this past year. In closing her address, Rosie encouraged classmates to take on climate change and to “be a part of the political change in 2020 to make our country stronger.”
With the beautiful San Jacinto Mountains in the background, Valedictorian Niko Vanden Heuvel addresses his fellow graduates. His trip down memory lane included sharing stories of practical jokes, good friendships, academic accomplishments, and challenges for the future. He ended his speech by thanking his many friends in the Class of 2019 and had a special shout out for his mom who immigrated from Belgium many years ago and his father who was a teacher at Banning High School for 30 years!
Coachella Valley High School, Coachella Valley Unified School District
May 30, 2019, 6 p.m.
Indian Wells Tennis Garden Stadium
Special Education provides programs and services for students with intellectual, emotional and physical disabilities in school districts throughout Riverside County. The students served in county programs attend classes in local schools, like Coachella Valley High School, and are provided with a quality education in the Least Restrictive Learning Environment to meet the individual needs of the children. Services provided include those necessary to meet the needs of children who are deaf or hard of hearing, as well as those with visual impairments. Five very excited graduates are ready to receive their diploma.
The Migrant Education Program assists students from migrant families to succeed in school. There are a number of organized, support activities designed to help migrant students achieve the goal of graduation. Two graduates join Migrant Education staff for a quick photo before entering the Indian Wells Tennis Garden Stadium.
Valedictorian Eric Arias has maintained the top spot in his class while dealing with the impacts and challenges of being homeless. While he “couch surfed” at friends’ homes, he maintained a 4.0 GPA and passed his Advanced Placement Exams for college credit. He’ll be attending the University of California Los Angeles in the fall, and through financial aid has brought the cost down from $34,000 a year to $9,300.
Personalized messages on mortar boards were on display at Coachella Valley High School’s graduation. A popular theme was expressing gratitude to Mom and Dad for the many sacrifices they’ve made to help their student succeed. Others included future college or work plans and quotes from favorite songs or artists.
Come Back Kids (CBK) Charter, Riverside County Office of Education
May 28, 2019, 6 p.m.
Riverside City College
“I’m happy to graduate because my family has been wanting me to do this my whole life. Not too many people in my family have graduated, so I’m kind of a first.” said Tyler Baker. Tyler is one of nearly 250 Riverside County CBK students that received their high school diploma this year after achieving the required credit recovery from this alternative, independent study school available to students who have dropped out of traditional high school from the 9th grade up. Program information available at: cbktoday.org
Honors graduate, Sergio Perez, wanted to let other students know to “Follow your dreams. Don’t let others bring you down. If they do, move on, leave them alone, focus on you.” Sergio’s friend is a Navy Seal and tells him all the time, “All in, all the time,” meaning, “Put all your effort into what you are focusing on and you’ll get there.”
CBK graduates Fernanda Santiago and Emily Sosa are both starting their studies at Riverside City College (RCC). Fernanda is happy that she is graduating as she now moves on to studying Business Entrepreneurship at RCC. And Emily is very excited that she is finishing high school. She explains “I attended CBK for four years. When I started I only had five credits to my name. After this I’m planning to attend RCC and take classes in child development so that I can open my own child care facility.”
Student speaker at the CBK graduation ceremony, Joseph Ramirez talks about what made CBK different from the other schools. Joseph names his individual instructors who made sure he had all the skills and resources needed to continue on with his education. His dream is to go to Stanford University to pursue a double major in Mechanical Engineering and Neuroscience. Ultimately, Joseph would like to become a neurosurgeon to help others overcome obstacles like those he faced from an early seizure disorder that affected his speech.
As she explained in her student speech at the CBK graduation ceremony, Lidia’s journey so far has not been easy. “We all faced hardships and set backs that shook the foundation that we sit upon.” Growing up as a foster youth, Lidia Melendez had little support and faced tremendous personal tragedies, but as she explained “We are living proof that no matter what one goes through we are able to succeed.”
May 28, 2019, 6 p.m.
Valedictorian from the Patriot High School Class of 2019, Nathan Lopez, used his speech to thank those who supported him throughout his high school career. He encouraged his fellow graduates to learn how to rely on others—even when it’s not easy to admit you need help. He urged his colleagues to follow the dictum: “Wherever you go, find those you can trust and be someone who can be trusted.” Earlier in the year, Nathan was named as a 2019 Riverside County Top Academic Scholar—an award bestowed on the top 20 graduating students in Riverside County.
Patriot High School Class of 2019 Salutatorian, Hunter Beebe, reminded his classmates to “Never lose the child inside of you”. Hunter received a student academic award from the Riverside County Office of Education as one of the top graduating seniors in Jurupa Unified School District.
Within two weeks of graduating from Patriot High School’s Class of 2019, Madison Santos will start basic training in Chicago with the U.S. Navy and will ship out to Japan immediately thereafter. Her ultimate goal is to become a pilot, but she’ll start by training to become an officer in the military police like her grandfather who served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War.
Patriot High School senior Shelby Ragole graduated with 300 credits and received a UC Regents Scholarship to study Physics at UC Irvine. Shelby attended the graduation ceremony with her mother, Jurupa USD Trustee, Melissa Ragole, and was congratulated on her accomplishments by Riverside County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Judy D. White.
Patriot High School Class of 2019 graduate, Sophia Aguirre, was part of the Upward Bound program and will be attending Riverside City College. She will be part of the RCC Promise Program that provides the first two years of community college for free. She intends to transfer to California State University, Fullerton, and study speech pathology.
May 22, 2019, 6 p.m.
Riverside City College
Riverside County High School students from RCOE programs in west county celebrated their graduation Wednesday, May 22, at Riverside City College. These students are on their way with high school graduation achieved and big plans for the future. There was a time when Angel Ahumada didn’t think that finishing high school mattered. “I thought that all I had to do was know how to turn money into more money. But, I realized I want more out of life,” Angel said. Now, he is a graduate of the Class of 2019 from the Val Verde Regional Learning Center and his online business is starting to take off. “Mark my words, I’ll be a millionaire by the time I’m 22,” Angel said. “I’ve put in too much time to quit trying.”
“Many people told me I wouldn’t graduate, and there were times I wanted to give up,” Athena Zepeda said. “But everybody at Arlington Regional Learning Center is family-oriented. They helped me and I want to become someone who helps kids graduate too.” She credited the passage of AB 216 in 2013 that helped clear the way for more foster students to reach their graduation day by focusing on core classes. Athena will now be starting a peer employment training program with Inland Valley Recovery Services. She wants to pursue a career helping kids who experienced similar challenges in life and with mental health. “I’ve come a long way and I’m proud to be graduating,” Athena said through watery eyes. “My family is seeing me graduate today and also seeing how much I’ve grown and accomplished.”
Kayleigh Brown, a graduate from the Betty Gibbel Regional Learning Center spoke to the Class of 2019 during commencement. Like so many of her peers, entering the RCOE program became a life-changing experience. “I came to school angry and mad. But, the school ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me.”
For Anthony McCloud, who also spoke at Wednesday’s graduation, entering the RCOE program was the opportunity to pivot, take charge, and turn his life around. “Life is what you make it and what you choose to be. The Betty Gibbel Regional Learning Center was my second chance to take control of my life and I took that chance.”
May 21, 2019, 6 p.m
California State University – San Bernardino Palm Desert Campus
Eleven students from the Don F. Kenny Regional Learning Center, Lawrence F. Smith, and Palm Springs Community Schools earned their high school diplomas on May 21 in a ceremony held at California State University, San Bernardino Palm Desert Campus. These desert area students were enrolled in Riverside County Office of Education Court/Community or Special Education programs. With a small graduating class, the ceremony was both personal and memorable for students and their families and friends. Student speaker John Vega Rivera, Palm Springs Community School, also earned a gold honor cord and AVID (Advancement Via Individualized Determination) Graduation with Distinction. While he made poor choices earlier in his education career, he said, “Past actions and grades do not determine my future. I can achieve more with the responsibility and perseverance I’ve gained through AVID.” John will be attending college in the fall and major in Business.
May 21, 2019, 3 p.m.
California State University – San Bernardino Palm Desert Campus
Twenty-eight desert area students graduated from the Come Back Kids Program on Tuesday, May 21 at California State University, San Bernardino Palm Desert Campus. For many of these students, graduating from high school represented a significant victory after overcoming challenges in their life. Student speaker Breanna Curtis (read Breanna’s story) summed it up best when she stated, “ Come Back Kids is a good school not only for kids who have been bullied, but also a good school for kids that have been bullied by their bodies.” Breanna was unable to continue at her home high school after enduring searing pain from endometriosis, a disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus grows outside the uterus. Come Back Kids provided her the opportunity to complete her high school diploma and she has been accepted into a Disney internship over the summer. Breanna is also a co-author with her mother of four books and looks forward to continuing her writing and artistic endeavors.