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Mary Lou Gomez, a bus monitor with the Mission CISD Transportation Department, wanted to show her son and his fellow graduates that the community is standing behind them as they move forward.
Last week, the Mission Consolidated Independent School District held their graduation ceremonies for Mission High School, Veterans Memorial High School and Mission Collegiate High School. Each Class of 2020 was greeted with an unusual sight – three school buses donning caps, signs of congratulations and masks.
Gomez, whose son Alexandro Rodriguez is a graduate of the VMHS Class of 2020, felt the need to show all the students that the district is always ready to support them, even in times of uncertainty.
“As a parent, it’s important because it’s their last year,” Gomez said. “With everything going on – they were locked down for close to two months. They were expected to go to Spring Break, and they just never went back to school. Graduation was more important this year.”
Gomez, who has been with MCISD for one year, approached her coworkers then Director Nora Tijerina about the idea of putting together some decorated buses for the graduates.
“Since the graduations were going to be outside, I asked if we could do something for the students,” Gomez said. “Maybe it wasn’t going to be too big, but something where they felt like we were paying attention to what’s going on.”
Tijerina, upon finding out Gomez’s son would be a graduate, gave her permission to move forward.
“She said, ‘you have my permission,’ and I want to thank her,” Gomez said. “Then, we started working.”
Gomez, along with Sarah Rocha and Jennifer Moreno, started with some cardboard and paint and got to work. They built graduation caps, painted signs and made masks for three small buses, and gathered with Ray Lara at 6:30 a.m. on Friday morning to decorate the buses so they would be ready for the MCHS graduation at 8 a.m.
Gomez said it was worth it.
“We’re one Mission, one nation,” Gomez said. “It doesn’t matter the color of the school or the mascot – at the end of the day, we’re one community who work together for the schools.”
Gomez and Rodriguez were happy that graduations were happening at all.
“It was amazing, because we didn’t expect a graduation,” Gomez said, noting they were expecting a cancellation once it started raining this weekend. “Right before the principal was going to give a speech, it just stopped raining.”
When campuses closed due to the pandemic, Gomez and her son were faced with new challenges they were not expecting.
“He was like, ‘what am I going to do? What if I don’t graduate – what’s going to happen to our ceremony? What’s going to happen to all of us?’” Gomez said. “As time went on, he started feeling like he got this and he could do it.”
Gomez saw that MCISD has been holding car parades and makeshift events, and as her son began attending them while keeping socially distant, she saw him adjust and feel better about the situation.
“He was more excited,” Gomez said, adding that he was glad when they found out there would be an in-person commencement. “He couldn’t be with his friends, but they were going to have a ceremony.”
Rodriguez, who intends to enroll in a local police academy, earned several certificates (Security Level Two, Dispatcher and Administrative Assistant) and scholarships from mariachi and JROTC (Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Course) as a graduate of VMHS. When the colors were presented on Saturday evening during the ceremony, he carried the Texas flag.
“Everything started falling into place,” Gomez said. “We have another transit bus, and it has a collage of the three schools. As he pointed to the bus, he said ‘I bleed maroon and blue – I graduated as a Patriot with an Eagle on my shoulder.’”