Joaquin Lopez Torres wanted to learn how to speak English, but he didn’t know who could teach him.
“I went on the internet and found Yucaipa Adult School,” Lopez Torres said.
That was in 2017. Last week, Lopez Torres was one of several student speakers who told their stories during the 56th annual commencement for the Yucaipa Adult School.
“Today is a special day for me and all the people present here because it fills us with pride,” he said to his fellow graduates, family, friends and local dignitaries assembled May 31 in the Oak View Education Center gymnasium. “Today, the effort pays off after a long wait. We must enjoy the moment.”
The Class of 2019 included 37 graduates, all with different journeys. Many are married. Many are parents. One graduate held her baby, dressed in a white cap and gown, as she processed to her seat and later when she accepted her diploma on stage. At least one wants to be a chef. Others are immigrants.
“There are as many reasons for not completing high school in (regular) time as there are graduates here tonight,” teacher Marcia Stewart said. “It really does matter where you came from because in the journey is the learning.”
“I am inspired by each and every one of you every day,” Stewart said.
Maria Valencia talked about her journey from El Salvador to the United States and Yucaipa. She had to quit school in her native El Salvador before she had the opportunity to move to the United States, where she got married and began to raise her two sons. Finishing high school was not part of her busy life.
That changed five years ago when her youngest son decided he didn’t like school and didn’t want to go anymore. He called his mom out.
“How can you tell me I should go to school when you didn’t finish?” she said he asked her one day.
He can’t say that to his mom anymore. Valencia earned every one of her high school credits at Yucaipa Adult School, graduating a couple of days before her youngest son who graduated from high school.
“Now, I am so relieved and proud,” Valencia said.
At one time, Amy Shew said she thought being a ninth-grade dropout was fine.
“It was for a while, but that wasn’t cutting it,” said Shew, who earned the Beaver Medical Clinic Foundation scholarship.
Slaving away at minimum wage jobs got old for Natalie Radoias and she decided to do something about it.
“I know that today’s milestone is only the beginning of a long and difficult and challenging path on the way to becoming a psychologist,” Radoias said about completing her high school education. “Attitude is everything.”
Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh offered some closing advice and encouragement to the graduates.
“Take some time to enjoy every moment of this moment,” Ochoa Bogh said. “Hold on to this moment … and when it gets hard – and it will – remember you can achieve it, just as you did tonight.”
Principal Dana Carter and Stewart both mentioned district board member Jane Smith, who was a big supporter of the adult school and passed away earlier in the week.
“Her commitments to our school and its growth was invaluable,” Carter said about Smith, who had a long career in education before becoming a board member in 2008.
“I have to thank Jane Smith, who is not here physically with us tonight, but she is here in spirit,” Stewart said. “I know that because she was a super fan of our school and attended many graduations over the years.”
Carter dedicated the commencement services to Smith.