HTH Grad: ‘I didn’t give up’
With tears and laughter from both grownups and grads, the Class of 2016 of High Tech High said goodbye to teachers and instructors on Tuesday evening.
Flanked by friends and relatives and carrying mountains of balloons, graduates from the Quincy School District’s alternative school celebrated their accomplishment and reminisced about the hurdles they overcame along the way.
Andres Teran, one of the graduates, admitted to getting a little teary-eyed during the slide-show of childhood pictures from the students.
“Yeah, ‘cause I made it,” he said. “I didn’t give up.”
Valentin Ramirez shared the sentiments of his classmate.
“Honestly, sir, I always thought I was going to graduate,” said Ramirez, who wants to either go into the military or become a police officer. “My teachers always pushed me to go forward, they never thought I was a failure, they always motivated me and so I always thought I was going to go somewhere.”
The ceremony marked a farewell not just for students but also for Garry Stidman, the principal of HTH, who leaves his post at the end of the school year.
“I told ‘em I was going to walk out with them,” an emotional Stidman said after the ceremony, which saw him walk behind the last graduate and out of the auditorium at Quincy High School.
Twelve students graduated out of the 19 seniors.
“We are missing a few but they’ll be there next year,” Stidman said. He added that he felt proudest of having stayed focused and being “always willing to do whatever it takes to help a student out, even if you had to help them out the door and let them wake up to reality.”
Stidman and the students shared photos, hugs and jokes during a reception at the cafeteria that capped the event, which began with speeches by Valerie Knodell and Jose Saldaña, co-keynote speakers.
Knodell, a parapro at HTH, told the students that in school and in life, failure is inevitable, but “you are proof today that failures are just milestones in the pathway to success.”
Saldaña, a Quincy businessman and former city councilman, told graduates that tough times and good times lie ahead, and that their future success will be defined by how they handle each one.
“You may not get that first, or second or third job interview. You may not become CEOs. And that’s OK,” Saldaña said. “But what matters is you have taken the first step toward a more promising future.”
He also praised Stidman for helping change the lives of so many children.
The keynote addresses preceded the speeches by two students, ASB president Claudia Gamboa and second-in-command DJ Hernandez.
“We got here by walking, taking the bus or driving, but we really got here by believing in ourselves,” said Gamboa, her voice breaking.
Hernandez said that the motivation of the Class of 2016 was to prove the doubters wrong.
After the ceremony Ramirez, who moved to Quincy two months ago, thanked all his HTH teachers for helping him along.
Classmate Manuel Avalos thanked his mom, saying the most rewarding part of his senior year was to see her happy.
“If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be here. I don’t think I would be wearing this right now,” Avalos said of his cap and gown. “I’m looking at her right now and she’s happy, and that makes it all worthwhile.”
He also credited Stidman for encouraging him to attend a six-month, school-credit retrieval program in Bremerton his freshman year.
Mom Elva Avalos smiled as her son piled on the praise. “It’s never too late,” she said. “I always told him, ‘don’t give up. You can do it.’”
— By Sebastian Moraga, firstname.lastname@example.org