By Reggie Ellis
lindsay – The 51 graduates of John J. Cairns’ Class of 2017 couldn’t be more different. They come from different backgrounds and arrive at the continuation high school for many reasons. Some are pregnant mothers, others class clowns and many self esteem. But the one thing they have in common is their ability to take the first step of a second chance.
Senior Dyana Macias told the crowd inside the Lindsay High School gymnasium on June 8 that she doubted herself because others doubted her. It wasn’t until she began attending John J. Cairns that she realized that graduating wouldn’t be easy but that it was definitely worth it, if for no other reason than to prove others wrong.
“For those who doubted me, put me down, made fun of me and told me I couldn’t do it, now I am standing in front of you as a graduate,” said Macias who proudly announced she was the first person in her family to ever enroll in college courses.
Estevan Arreaga looked back on his five years of high school as a series of challenges and celebrations. After being held back for a year, Arreaga was faced with the choice of attending continuation high school or continue to fall behind in a traditional high school. He made the right choice to attend John J. Cairns where he became part of a learning community, got individualized instruction from teachers and even built his own video game from scratch.
“I’m proud to be a Knight,” Arreaga said.
For Iris Sandoval it wasn’t so much the instruction or motivation to learn that changed, but rather the friends with whom she surrounded herself. Sandoval came to the school after getting pregnant, which ostracized her from her friends at LHS. While at the continuation high school, she made a new set of friends who were less interested in putting her down and more interested in building her up.
“Every problem I had I overcame because someone gave me courage,” she said. “My friends there told me my future is not lost because I got pregnant.”
Virginia Loya, executive director of Lindsay’s Chamber of Commerce and Friday Night Market, said she was the first in her family to be born in the United States. She said her family settled in Lindsay in 1961 but spent many summers “vacationing” in the fields up and down the West Coast to help the family make ends meet. She said she was lucky enough to have an older brother who helped her realize her career path by pushing her to pursue something she enjoyed in styling hair. She said having her own business helped her become a respected member of the community which she eventually parlayed into running two of the most successful enterprises in town – the Lindsay Chamber and Friday Night Market.
“This is just the beginning of your life,” she said. “Figure out what you want to do, focus on your goals and your dreams and never stop.”
Just before handing out diplomas, Principal Dennis Doane presented Eduardo Lemus-Ibarra with the Principal’s Award. Doane said when “Eddie” arrived at the school he expected to see a lot of him in his office but hasn’t seen him once in the last year. His attendance was 99.5% and he plans on pursuing a career in welding. Doane said Eddie’s was selected for his answer to the question “If I could change anything in the world, what would it be?”
“I would start by changing myself,” Doane read from Eddie’s essay. He said instead of goofing off in the back of the class, he would have set in the front row. Instead of pushing off his homework to hang out with friends, he would have put effort into his work and turned it in on time. Instead of giving up on school, he would have given it his all.