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Graduation 2020 revised

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W hen Jasmine Ruiz was in fifth grade, she knew then that she would be going to college, she just wasn't quite sure how she would get there. It's why when after she had been accepted to UC Santa Cruz, it was a terrible blow when her parents told her they couldn't afford her tuition. "I was really dev- astated at that point, just frustrated and con- fused," she said. "I was so set at going to uni- versity straight out of high school." Instead, she got a job at a medical imaging company in her native Los Angeles and started saving up money. The salt in her wounds was the fact that her high school boyfriend was going to school at UC Santa Cruz and she would often visit him and think about how that could be her life. But she knuckled un- der, saved some money, moved to Santa Cruz and attended Cabrillo College, managing to graduate from there with a prestigious scholar- ship. "I feel like paying my bills and having to feed myself were part of what fuels my determination," she said. Ruiz was bestowed the Karl S. Pister Leadership Opportunity Award by Cabrillo College, mean- ing she will be able to put $20,000 toward her education at UC Santa Cruz, which after a long and arduous process is set to begin in the fall. "At Cabrillo, I found the support that I needed," she said, add- ing that she will study environmental studies and biology. Ruiz said her boss at the Learning Communi- ties Center at Cabrillo, Leah Resendez was the most instrumental force in her education, provid- ing motivation, mentor- ship and an occasional meal when it was most needed. "Leah has been my strongest support in everything," Ruiz said. While Ruiz is unique in her ability to sur- mount hardships while maintaining the self- motivation necessary to graduate school, Cabrillo prides itself on affording opportunity to students like Ruiz, who may have all of the intellectual requirements for a successful college career, but lack the financial resources. Cabrillo graduated 1,641 students on May 22, a record-breaking class, and an 11% in- crease over the previous year. The class of 2020 at Cabrillo College was truly remarkable, with a record 165 students who graduated with a 4.0 grade point average. The school awarded 1,034 A.A. degrees and 541 A.S. degrees. Fur- thermore, 306 students matriculated with an Associate's Degree for Transfer that will allow them to transfer seam- lessly into the CSU system. "In total, we saw a 23% increase in award recipients compared to last year," said Cabrillo Superintendent and President Matthew Wet- stein in a prepared state- ment. "To accomplish that feat in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis is nothing short of stunning." Many of the students will take their talents to some of the most prestigious four-year colleges on the west coast, including UC Berkeley, USC, UCLA and UCSC. Others will pur- sue their education in disparate places like Vanderbilt, Oberlin Col- lege and Conservatory, Northwestern, Tufts and Boston University. The graduates were as young as 18 and as young at heart as 76. Cabrillo also prides it- self on being a Hispanic Serving Institution, and as such, remarked that this year's graduating class was 47% Latino. For Ruiz, that feeling of community was im- perative to her success at the institution and something she hopes to continue to forge in Santa Cruz once the present health crisis subsides and things get back to a semblance of normalcy. "I have tried to surround myself with communities that make me feel more comfort- able," she said. "Overall, Cabrillo has been an incredible experience for me." Cabrillo graduates record-class amid the pandemic By Matthew Renda G raduations are invariably a bit- tersweet affair. The promise of the next chapter in life mixes with a sense of accomplishment signi- fied by the diploma, which in turn mingles with a sense of sadness at saying goodbye to friends, family and com- munities. For Caleb Lennon, a senior at Cypress Charter High School, that sadness is particu- larly acute as a global pandemic has made it difficult to find a fitting finish to his high school career. "I don't know if I will get to say goodbye to my friends and my teachers," Lennon said. "I won't be able to say goodbye to the school that I love." Lennon's immedi- ate future is also up in the air to an inordinate degree. He has been accepted to Pitzer College in Claremont, Caifornia, where he plans to study psychol- ogy, but his excitement is tempered a bit by the unusual circumstances presented by the coronavirus. While all gradu- ating high school seniors have varying degrees of anxiety about the prospects of going to a differ- ent town where they will be tested with new intellectual challenges while forg- ing new social circles, Lennon and his cohorts aren't even sure what their first fall semesters at college will even look like. "I don't know if I will be able to go to college physically in the fall," he said. "They might decide to do the fall semester remotely." It could be strange to meet your fellow stu- dents a semester in, but Lennon said he is con- fident he will ultimately be able to participate in the full university campus experience. In the meantime, he is keeping his eye on his ambitions. He wants to become a therapist. "I would like to work as a counselor, specifi- cally with youth eating disorders and other mental health issues," Lennon said. Lennon is familiar with the struggles of young people. He came out as gay in eighth grade and while he has found a supportive environment at Cypress Charter, his matriculation into adulthood has not been without travails. Nevertheless, he served as president of the Gender and Sexual- ity Alliance at Cypress and made formal changes to the meeting format to facilitate more inclusion for his cohorts. He also served as an active member of the environmental charge to help make prom a zero-waste event. Unfortunately, Len- non, like all of his class- mates, was unable to attend his senior prom due to COVID-19. "I went to prom last year," he said. "I also went to queer prom in Watsonville most of the years I have been in high school." Lennon's graduation ceremony will also be dramatically altered from past precedence. Students will show up to the school 20 min- utes apart, collect their diplomas and take their graduation photos. They will also have a graduation ceremony via Zoom later in the week. "It's definitely not ideal, but I think the school is trying their best to try and honor all of the work we put in," Lennon said. He said he is looking forward to seeing all his friends and fellow students one last time before they all go off their separate ways, even if it is only in the virtual sense. Lennon will also wait until June, when Pitzer College is expected to make a decision about whether to host in- Cypress Charter student embarks on next chapter in a difficult time By Matthew Renda continues on pg 3...

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