Parents and guest applaud Vincent Memorial High School’s 68-member graduating class of 2021 as they turn to face them during commencement ceremonies and Mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Calexico on Friday morning, May 28. | JULIO MORALES PHOTO
CALEXICO — When Barbara Pozo first started attending Vincent Memorial High School as a freshman, the former public-school student said she recalled feeling uncertain about whether she would fit in.
Four years later, the 17-year-old said she thinks of her enrollment at the relatively small and tight-knit Catholic school campus as the “best decision” for her.
As much as she enjoyed her close interaction with teachers and staff, and participating on the school’s mock trial team and with student government, Barbara said her education at Vincent Memorial went beyond solely academics.
“I know that I’ve learned all of my core values from here,” said Barbara, whose dreams of becoming a lawyer include an initial stop at New York’s Syracuse University, where she will major in public relations.
The emphasis that Vincent Memorial places on helping develop its students’ spiritual values was evident during the Class of 2021’s graduation at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church on Friday morning, May 28.
During the joint commencement ceremony and traditional Mass, graduates were urged to use those imparted values to become their best selves and help make the world a kinder, more loving place no matter what path forward they choose.
While he said he was anticipating that the 68 graduating Scots would go on to pursue success and make their marks on the world, Our Lady’s Father Jose Sosa also said he was expecting something more from them.
“Whatever path you take, always have God in your hearts,” Sosa said. “If you don’t have love for one another, there’s something missing in your lives.”
Aside from being there to congratulate the graduating seniors on their big day, Juan Galvan, Diocese of San Diego Office of Schools director, also commended the students’ parents for their financial support and for placing their trust in the Catholic school’s faculty and staff.
During the commencement ceremony, Galvan presented two awards to staff members who marked their 20-year anniversary as campus employees.
He also presented the principal, Sister Guadalupe “Lupita” Hernandez, with the Reimagine Catholic Schools Award for having helped transition the campus’ innovative and creative curriculum to a hybrid learning model amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This place transforms both students and parents alike,” he said.
During his four years at Vincent Memorial, 18-year-old Juancarlos Navarro said he underwent a transformation of sorts, as well.
Although tennis had always been a favorite extracurricular activity of his, mock trial eventually emerged as a contender, too. The first time he participated was as the role of a bailiff, charged with letting people in and out of the mock courtroom.
The next time around he was assigned to be the prosecuting team’s third chair, where he helped craft legal strategy and oral arguments, and asked questions and made objections in the courtroom.
“It was a pretty big jump from the bottom rung to, more or less, the big guys on the team,” Navarro said.
He acknowledged that the school year was a challenging one on account of the pandemic. Yet, he suggested the nearly yearlong closure of the campus could work in favor of those with plans to attend college elsewhere.
“Maybe getting to college might hit us way differently because we haven’t been anywhere in so long,” said Navarro, who in the fall will be attending New York University, where he plans to major in psychology.
During his remarks to his graduating classmates, class salutatorian Javier Gallego said he was thankful for the memories his years at Vincent Memorial provided him, in spite of the pandemic.
“I think we can all agree we’d never imagine a year like this,” Javier said.
Class valedictorian Denise Gonzalez told her fellow graduates that the school year seemed to have both lapsed in a week and lasted indefinitely. Yet, during that time, Vincent Memorial faculty and staff ensured that students received the best possible education.
“The most important lesson we learned this year is to help one another,” Denise said.
For her part, Sister Lupita Hernandez encouraged her graduating seniors to always remember to dance. Drawing inspiration from the lyrics of Lee Ann Womack’s hit, “I Hope You Dance,” Hernandez implored her students to “never take one single breath for granted” and to “give faith a fighting chance.”
As challenging as the school year was for the students, it should also have taught them that life is short and precarious and that they need to make the best of it. And the only way to do so is by taking care of themselves and others.
“Remember what makes you a great person is your heart, your kindness and your happiness,” Hernandez said.
Central Union High graduates at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 2 on Cal Jones Field.
Southwest High graduates at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 2 on Eagle Field.
Holtville High graduates at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 3 on Birger Field.
Imperial High graduates at 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 4 at Shimamoto-Simpson Stadium.
Calexico’s Aurora High School graduates on Tuesday, June 8 on Ward Field.
Calexico High graduates at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 10 and Friday, June 11 on Ward Field.
Imperial Valley College will have a drive-through/virtual graduation at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, June 12.