There wasn't a dry eye in the Spartan Theatre last week when Alta Vista High School graduate Yoselin Mora-Gutierrez told the story of how she turned her life around thanks to the Mountain View-Los Altos district's continuation high school.
Mora-Gutierrez graduated this year as a married parent of three children who struggled through school. She was transferred to a young parents program but continued to have trouble keeping up with her classes. She was told that she would not graduate.
She tried to transfer back to her previous school, but would later end up at Alta Vista High School.
At the graduation ceremony on June 4, Mora-Gutierrez said she was worried that her new teachers, like Alta Vista teacher Dan Carter, wouldn't be sensitive to her situation.
"I was nervous he wouldn't understand what it was like to be a parent with a difficult home life," Mora-Gutierrez said.
Instead, she said Carter turned out to be the powerful father figure that she didn't have. Carter, along with students and other staff at Alta Vista, gave her a support system that she could use to get her life back on track and make it to graduation this year.
"Don't give up when things get tough," Mora-Gutierrez said to her graduating classmates.
Like Mora-Gutierrez, all 45 Alta Vista graduates had a story to tell, and many felt they had transformed and changed their outlook on life in just a few years. In a slide show by Marciano Gutierrez, a social studies teacher, graduates used one word to describe themselves going into Alta Vista. They used words like irresponsible, lazy, sassy, ignorant and outsider.
How do they describe themselves now? Motivated, inspired, determined, overjoyed, powerful, mature and even shocked.
Superintendent Barry Groves told family and friends at the graduation to encourage grads to keep that motivation going and head into post-secondary education, including technical degrees, community college and four-year universities.
"Don't let them stop now! Encourage them to continue their education," Groves said.
And it doesn't look like they plan to stop either. Almost every students' parting words from Alta Vista last Wednesday included plans to continue school at Foothill or De Anza colleges.
Principal Bill Pierce said he has a map of the United States in the Alta Vista office with pushpins and school pennants to show where graduates go after attending the school. Many go on to college all across the country. He said students who have doubts for the future can come into the office and see
Pierce said there's a particular persistence among the graduating class this year, many of whom have had a lot of life struggles in addition to their academic work. He said supportive staff, like Carter, care deeply for the kids and spend whatever time is needed to help them succeed -- before school, after school, or over the weekend.
This year's graduating class received a record-breaking $25,000 in student scholarships, split between eight recipients. Gutierrez, who ran the scholarship workshop this year, also announced the Aztec Scholarships, which are announced as a surprise and handed out to students during the graduation ceremony.
Joe Mitchner, the president of the Mountain View-Los Altos School District board, said the graduating class took nontraditional paths to reach their goals and change their lives. It is the close relationships and supportive classroom environments that helped foster the 'turnaround' that so many students achieved this year, he said.
Alta Vista Class of 2014
Conley Gage Marcantel
Sinead Jayne O'Hara
Caitlyn Ortega Baichtal
Daniel Plascencia Rodriguez
Mary Paz Silvain Almada