MHS celebrates Top Ten
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Principal Sandra Rodriguez, along with the school’s team of administrators, spent last Friday May 8 stopping at the home of every Top Ten student in the MHS Class of 2020.
The Class of 2020 faced an unexpected shift in their last year at Mission High School – the pandemic brought about by the coronavirus shut down campuses. As graduation approaches, their normal end-of-year activities have been postponed or cancelled all together – so the Mission Consolidated Independent School District has been working to ensure everyone’s success is still celebrated.
Rodriguez and staff took a caravan throughout the area, playing music as they approached the homes of the Top Ten students in the MHS Class of 2020. She reflected on the transition when schools had to move from in-person to distance learning.
“They had an overnight transformation of instruction and learning,” Rodriguez said. “They were born for this – they have no problem understanding that their phone holds all of their classes, and some of them are dual, some are at UTRGV, some are in the medical field and some are in engineering.”
The characterization of the Class of 2020 as focused solely on social media is incorrect, Rodriguez said.
“It now holds their continuity, their connection to their teachers, their administrators and their counselors,” Rodriguez said. “Having the counselors present with them is what is going to get the students to understand that we don’t just care, we’re here for uplifting them.”
“We’re here to make sure that their future is going to be our future,” Rodriguez added. “We’re in this together, we’re not apart – they make us who we are.”
Rodriguez was named the principal of MHS just a few months ago, making the pandemic one of the first issues she had to face as a leader in education.
“Instead of our campus being apart, this pandemic brought us closer together,” Rodriguez said. “We have never communicated as much as we do because we’re physically apart. Our hearts and our minds are all together. We’re looking forward to the new and better normal.”
Prior to her becoming principal, Rodriguez was the Instructional Technology Coordinator for the district, where she has been for seven and a half years. Her experience in IT prepared her for COVID-19’s impact on the way curriculum and instruction is distributed.
“These kids strive and they will sprint to the finish – those are the kinds of students that we have here at Mission High School,” Rodriguez said. “Nothing’s going to stop them – I can’t wait to see what the future is going to be for them.”
Their continued success, she says, is a testament to the Class of 2020’s resilience.
“These kids are so strong – they were born into the grieving world of 9/11,” Rodriguez noted. “They are now, in graduation, grieving in a global pandemic. So they are amazing, they have that perseverance.”
Rodriguez, a former migrant student who graduated from Mission High School in 1985, knows the pride that comes from graduating as an Eagle.
“It feels as if this is something I was born to do,” Rodriguez said. “I was one of those low socio-economic students who would not have had a device or internet connection. I grew up here, I know what these students feel and what it is to be an Eagle – no matter where you are, you always know your way back home.”
Celebrating students is a priority right now for MCISD.
“This is their one opportunity for a senior year, they will never in their life have this opportunity again,” Rodriguez said. “This feels like something that we need to give them: that continuity of celebration.”
MCISD emphasizes the continuity of their instruction, Rodriguez added. The social, emotional learning that students undergo is therefore also their responsibility.
“As educators, we have to give them that opportunity to have the social, emotional learning continue through celebrations and through global pandemics,” Rodriguez said. “We’re so focused on our standards and our TEKS [Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills], that we forget about the child and the families and everything they’re going through.”
Leslee Northcutt is ranked sixth in the MHS Class of 2020. On Friday morning, the caravan stopped by her home to present her with a gift basket, yard signs and graduation regalia.
“I feel like my hard work paid off,” Northcutt said. “It feels cool to be honored, especially in these hard times.”
A participant in volleyball, softball, track, basketball and in the art club, she will be leaving for the Army June 30 after she graduates. Following her time in the Army, she intends to attend the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.”
“I was glad that I’m not waking up early anymore, but it is a lot of work and sometimes I’ve felt unmotivated,” Northcutt said on the pandemic’s impact. “This [surprise] has definitely motivated me.”
Principal Rodriguez reiterated that the Class of 2020 has been through a lot in a short amount of time, but that won’t hinder their opportunities for higher learning and professional growth.
“It’s not just about what they’ve been through, but what they’ve excelled from,” Rodriguez said. “They’re not just going to live through a global pandemic, they’re going to come above it and use it as a stepping stone for their future success.”