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June 18, 2004

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Publication Date: Friday, June 18, 2004

Spartans, old and young, celebrate Spartans, old and young, celebrate (June 18, 2004)

By Julie O'Shea

Mountain View High School gave out 317 diplomas June 11, including one to an 81-year-old.

Mary Kitahara was supposed to receive her diploma in 1942 when she and her family were taken away to a Japanese internment camp in Wyoming.

A wrong was made a right when Kitahara was finally recognized for completing high school.

But two who had already received diplomas from Mountain View passed away this past year. Kyle Wieland died from injuries suffered while fighting in Afghanistan, and Ken Ballard was taken down by small-arms fire in Iraq last month.

In news on campus, the teachers rejected a proposal to change the calendar schedule, a new football field debuted, all four winter sports teams made the CCS playoffs, and the robotics team took first in a regional competition.

Sitting down with the Voice shortly before graduation, two graduates, Sara Higley and Dina Barrios, reflected on life after high school.

Sara Higley

This fall, Sara Higley will head to Chicago's DePaul University.

While she's not entirely certain what she'll major in (she likes photography and language arts but suspects she will likely go into social work) one thing is certain -- Higley, 18, can't wait to get away.

"I want to go some place extremely diverse," she said in a recent interview, just weeks before graduating from Mountain View High School. "People's focus (here) is academic success and pretty much nothing else. And for me, it's not the most important thing in my life.

"I try not to measure my life by what I've done in high school."

What Higley, a soft-spoken girl with long brown hair and glasses, found important and worthwhile is what she did outside the classroom, like her art.

"I think there are more talented people out there," she said modestly. "I just want to show people what I think is beautiful in the world."

Equally as important was the time she spent tutoring English language learners at Castro Elementary School.

"It's so much fun because the kids are really responsive," said Higley, who went to the school once a week. "Kids never notice when you make mistakes. It's really fun when you teach them words in English. I'm really glad that I started doing that."

Higley, whose family is from the Midwest, said she hopes to have an opportunity to study in Latin America at some point during her time in college.

But before she can start laying the groundwork for that adventure, she must first get through summer in Mountain View, where she works part-time at Global Beads on Castro Street.

"I just want to move on," she said.

Dina Barrios

Dina Barrios moved to the United States from Guatemala when she was six years old. Her parents, she said, wanted a better life and more opportunities for Barrios and her four siblings. They wanted their children to learn English and follow their dreams, Barrios explained.

"It was hard, the first years," she acknowledged but she never gave up. In August, she will begin studying to become a nurse at De Anza College with the intention of going to medical school some day.

"I've always wanted to be a doctor since I was little, a pediatrician. I like working with kids," Barrios said. In time, Barrios anticipates she will be working at El Camino Hospital, close to her family's home in Sunnyvale where she moved when she was a freshman in high school.

"They say I'm a really good leader," Barrios said of community members who know her. "I just like helping people and being around people."

During high school, Barrios was heavily involved in the Latino community, joining the city's Latino Movement, which helped organize Cinco de Mayo festivities. Barrios was also a member of the Fish Club, an on-campus religious group that formed a few years ago.

"That's one of my main things. I am very involved in church," Barrios said, adding that she is proud to be one of the students who helped get the "controversial" club started.

Barrios, interviewed just days before graduation, said she couldn't wait for all the freedoms post-high school life will allow her. However, this ending is bittersweet.

"I will miss a lot of my friends," she said. "And the teachers -- I've had a lot of teachers who really cared about me."

E-mail Julie O'Shea at [email protected]

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