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Senior graduations at LJISD have looked a bit different this year.
Last Thursday, June 4, The Palmview High School Class of 2020 celebrated their commencement at the La Joya Independent School District Stadium. The outdoor graduation was allowed in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, as per guidelines from the Office of Governor Greg Abbott.
The commencements for LJISD had originally been scheduled for the week prior, but heavy storms led the district to delay graduations. When students strode onto the field, they saw the conclusion of their high school careers.
They donned face masks along with their caps and gowns, and chairs were spread out all over the field as their families sat and watched from the stadium bleachers, also situated six feet apart. Though their smiles were not visible, the joy was evident when they looked to their parents as they walked, waving at them as loved ones cheered the students on.
Senior Class President Cielo Carolina Cerda gave the official welcome for Thursday’s commencement. She spoke of the gratitude they all felt for those who supported the class throughout their educational journey.
“The truth is, we have had it rough,” Cerda said. “We are a united class – the pandemic class – that has the entire world striving to graduate with [us]. Never has a graduating class been called to step into the future with more reason, vision and enthusiasm.”
Cerda added that they were joined together in the memories and impact that they leave behind.
“We are a class of excellence and strive for nothing but greatness,” Cerda said. “It is an honor and privilege to be part of such a magnificent class. Lobo Class of 2020, be the best you can be. Some have a story, we left a legacy.”
An LJISD employee wiped down the mike stand with disinfectant wipes each time a person spoke at the podium, and most speakers even had their own microphones. The board of trustees and superintendent sat on the stage with the valedictorian and salutatorian.
Salutatorian Enya Dahli Ramirez, spoke of her pride for her fellow classmates.
“Despite the obstacles, we’re here today graduating during a pandemic and carrying alongside us a myriad of accomplishments,” Ramirez said, going on to thank her parents for their support and love, and her friends for being a source of joy and sanity. “Although this chapter of our lives is closed, the Palmview Class of 2020’s journey is far from over. I am thrilled to see what the future holds for all of us, because I know it is bright.”
Valedictorian Adrianna Janette Garza, gave a speech on how the much anticipated time milestone in their lives – graduation – had come upon them. She thanked her parents, teachers, mariachi directors and friends for all they’ve done in encouraging her.
“We have gained a unique experience unlike any class before us,” Garza said on the unforeseen pandemic cutting their in-person senior year short. “As the time has come for us to diverge on our own paths in the world, I hope each one of you stops to reflect on how our path will strengthen our futures. As we move on from the stage, we must remember all the things that made up our high school experience, because they helped shape who we are, who we have been and who we aspire to be.”
Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-TX 28th District) gave the commencement address. He also presented the winner of the 2020 Congressional Art Competition, Karina Guerra (a graduate of the PHS Class of 2020), whose art will be displayed at the Cannon Tunnel to the U.S. Capitol.
Cuellar told the graduates about his background as the eldest son of eight children in a family with two migrant parents – a story not unlike some of the student population in La Joya ISD.
“My parents did not understand what was being spoken, but in their hearts they knew that their son – the son of migrant workers – had just become a member of the U.S. House of Representatives,” Cuellar said on the day he was first sworn into office. “Your parents are also very proud of you, they are extremely proud of what you have accomplished today and what you’re going to do later on.”
Cuellar said this class will be able to face whatever challenges have come and will come their way as they enter into the next chapter of their lives.
“I know this year has been a difficult year, in fact the last time we saw something like this was 100 years ago when the Spanish Flu hit not only the United States, but across the world and killed over 50 million individuals,” Cuellar said. “These are very difficult times, and I know it’s been hard. But you have been able to get past this, and you will be able to face this.”
Cuellar spoke on the importance of education and hard work, which he learned from his parents. He advised students to be ready to adapt to the changing world and not be afraid to fail.
“You might be the smartest one here, but once you go to college remember there are high schools from different places, and you need to make sure you work harder than the person next to you,” Cuellar said. “Everyone has failed at one time – but instead of fearing failure, you should be able to embrace it, because every failure is an opportunity to learn and grow. You will never know your true strength, determination or perseverance until you’re tested by that failure. Keep moving forward.”