Class of 2019: Knights demonstrate the ‘true meaning of strength’

Seniors from John J. Cairns, Loma Vista Charter schools receive diplomas Thursday during the schools’ commencement ceremony

By Nancy Vigran
Reporting for the Sun-Gazette

LINDSAY – Thirty-eight seniors from John J. Cairns High and Loma Vista Charter schools took part in the graduation commencement ceremony on Thursday along with nine Lindsay Adult Education students.

Graduate Emilia Perez spoke of her beginnings with John J. Cairns High in which she “walked in with a big attitude” and is now “leaving with an attitude of gratitude.” 

At her former high school, she didn’t feel as if she was getting enough work done, and she wanted more one-on-one time, which John J. Cairns High provided for her. 

The guest keynote speaker, Paolo Martin, has worked closely with members of the graduating class for the past two years as a part of his study as a Stanford University researcher.

“I had the privilege to watch you grow into the fullness of yourselves,” he said. “From you I learned the true meaning of strength.”

Martin grew up, in part, like many of the graduating students, he said. He emigrated with his parents from the Philippines to the U.S. as a child. Life was hard, they were poor, he said, and he had the feeling of not fitting in.

In the students’ former school situations, “You had to put up with the shame of just trying to exist,” he said. “But you weren’t out. You reached out to others, you have shown me what it means to be strong.”

Martin expressed that for the students as well as the staff, “while we might not be biologically related to you, we can be family. The feeling is reciprocated, the facilitators consider you family.”

He gave three final summations of advice to the students: “Tell your story. Each one of you has a journey no one else has. It’s OK to not know where life may take you. You are going to be OK. You’ll always have one another. Always remember that you are enough.”

And, he closed with a quote from one of his favorite people, Mr. Rogers.

“You don’t have to do anything sensational for people to love you.” Public television icon Fred Rogers had given that particular quote as part of his 2002 Dartmouth Commencement Address.

In his closing remarks, Principal Dennis Doane focused on the motto of “Work Hard, Finish Strong.”

“This is not only a time of celebration, but also a time for reflection. Some of our learners have overcome tremendous obstacles to earn their high school diploma. The years of hard work are now behind them, but the memories remain. I commend them for not giving up, but staying focused on their goals and their desire to complete their high school education,” Doane said.

Scholarships for the 2019 class were awarded to Emilia Perez, Cristal Castaneda, Safa Aloudi, Juan Bustos, Berenise Martinez-Lira, and Mario Rodriguez. This year’s Principal’s Award was given to Berenise Martinez-Lira, who graduated a year early. 

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