Graduations are always inspiring – but perhaps none more so than the high school graduation of students from the Monarch School in Barrio Logan.
The students completed their high school education despite huge adversities that go way beyond the pandemic. Thirteen seniors and one honorary valedictorian who passed away received diplomas Thursday.
"Today is a huge day," said Afira DeVries, President and CEO of Monarch School Project. "We have 13 of our seniors making it officially into the world after a really difficult few years and after leading a life that had a lot of traumas at its roots."
The Monarch School exclusively supports the education and emotional needs of children who experience homelessness, live in hotels and cars, and who deal with "family instability" like domestic violence and abuse. Some of their parents are even in prison.
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"These students are really beacons and examples of resilience. I hope they inspire everybody," said DeVries.
"I think I’m a little bit nervous. I’m going to do one step more to my future I have planned. That’s scary but I feel emotional, too, because I made it," said graduate Rosario Alvarez. She lives in Tijuana with her mother who said they had to get up at 4 a.m. every morning to cross the border and get to school. She was only 12 years old when she started making this kind of commute. "Yeah, I crossed the border, like alone, by myself," she added.
Rosario said it was difficult because it is not easy to cross the border every day and always have a smile in class, but she said Monarch has made all the difference. "I like school here... Monarch... makes me a better person. Here, it’s like family that is always looking for positive change in the world," she said.
Now, Rosario is the valedictorian of the class of 2022. "I just try, always try, and if I make a mistake, I learn from my mistake and try to do it better."
DeVries summed it up this way: "These kids made it and we’re all very proud of that. It’s a real celebration."
Rosario will go to Southwestern College and then transfer to a university. She wants to become a lawyer. Her mother could not attend the graduation, but during her valedictorian speech, Rosario thanked her mother for all she has done.