University High graduates wait for their big moment at Pueblo Auditorium after a thunderstorm forced a change of venue from the Wool Bowl, Thursday evening. (Mark Wilson Photo)
Support and warmth enveloped the 21 University High School graduates Thursday night inside Pueblo Auditorium as the packed audience cheered relentlessly for the students who had overcome some of life’s toughest obstacles to obtain their diplomas.
Roswell Independent School District’s highest administrative staff lined the stage as the small group of proud graduates were called to receive awards and scholarships.
“Graduations are about accomplishment,” said the school’s principal Laura Herrera. “Tonight we celebrate the fact that these students got to this moment. And we hope this milestone will [auth] inspire them to dream bigger and work harder to achieve more and bigger goals.”
Many students who enroll at UHS face obstacles in their teen years, such as pregnancy, relationship issues, medical problems or other barriers.
One student, Angelica Cortez, said she started working at 14. When she was 16, she got a job at Long John Silvers where she met an encouraging mentor. At the same time, she was getting to know her mother-in-law. She spoke to her graduating class about how this crucial turning point changed her life.
“This is only the beginning of a new chapter in my life,” Cortez said. “It is up to me what my future holds.
Salutatorian Missouri Boggs said her favorite memory of high school will be the day she enrolled at UHS. She encouraged her class to feel proud of their achievements.
“I mean, look at where you are,” she said. “You are graduating high school. The only reason you are standing where you are is because you worked your tail off to get here. Today is the day you hold your head high for all of those who doubted you.”
Several distinguished community organizations including the Kiwanis Club, Roswell Rotary and Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell provided awards to several students. Javier Aldavaz received an overwhelming number of scholarships and awards.
Valedictorian Yessenia Cortez was moved to tears as she spoke about her struggles to return to high school after she became pregnant.
“It was a long journey for all of us,” Cortez told the audience. “About two years ago, I didn’t want to go on with my education, but then I got pregnant and I wanted a better future for my family. UHS made it possible for me to work around my schedule. Sometimes I felt like giving up … but who hasn’t felt like that. Being here tonight has taught me that if you want something in life, you can accomplish it. It’s amazing.”
Many graduates were able to hold their children in their arms as they crossed the stage to receive their diplomas.