Above: University High School valedictorian Jasm[auth] ine Seward, left, and salutatorian Celeste Mendoza lead their class in the New Mexico state pledge at the Thursday night graduation ceremony. University High math teacher Natasha Mackey, also a Roswell city council member, sang the “Star Spangled Banner” prior to graduates receiving their diplomas. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)
Below: This year’s only Early College High School graduate, Pablo M. Charo Jr., takes a moment with a friend following the Thursday night graduation ceremony at the Roswell Convention and Civic Center. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)
Principal Porter Cutrell described the University High School Class of 2017 and the sole Early College High School graduate as representative of the new educational and vocational landscape, in which 70 percent of jobs require education beyond high school.
He praised the 30 graduating seniors participating in the Thursday commencement ceremony at the Roswell Convention and Civic Center for earning a cumulative 300 hours in college credit and employability certificates while on their way to their high school diplomas.
“This puts them in a position to be college or career ready as they walk out the door,” he said. “The partnership between University High School and Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell gives our students an educational advantage. Take advantage of that, graduates, as you are the beginning of our new generation.”
Cutrell said that the seniors had earned a range from three college credit hours to 45 credit hours, which he said represents a total savings of about $50,000 in college tuition and expenses.
The graduating class also heard from three classmates.
Cheyenne Simpson gave a welcome, telling her fellow students, “Tomorrow we all walk into the unknown, but tonight is our time to shine.”
Salutatorian Celeste Mendoza, who intends to continue with nursing studies after graduation, gave thanks to the many people who had helped her through high school. “I have faith our future will be bright,” she said. “We made it this far, so why not?” She quoted from Scripture as she told the crowd that she thinks God intends a good future for them.
Valedictorian Jasmine Seward thanked her “personal favorite and personal mentor,” business teacher Judy Crockett, while saying that University High was special in that its small size allowed all graduates to know each other. “I personally believe each one of us will succeed in what we decide to do,” she said.
With a short ceremony that was over within an hour, the photo-taking began and families and friends gave flowers, balloons, gifts and candy leis to the new graduates.
Pablo M. Charo Jr., the only Early College High School graduate, said that he plans to continue his college studies in criminal justice at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales with the intent of becoming a detective.
The Early College High School program was started in Roswell in fall 2014, so it has yet to have a full graduating class. One person graduated last year after completing all program requirements in two years. Charo, 18, who transferred here from a similar program in El Paso as a sophomore, is the second local graduate. The program enables students to earn up to two years of college credits at the same time that they earn a high school diploma.
Charo has received an ENMU Presidential Scholarship, a Sunrise Optimist scholarship and a GEAR UP scholarship.
How did he feel? “Relieved. Excited,” he said, “just glad that I can on to college and my career.”
His sentiments probably rang true for a lot of his peers as well.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.