This Graduating Class is Something Special!

“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other.” Walter Elliot

As we shift gears and begin to prepare for the return of some normalcy, it can’t be understated enough that for some normal may never return. For some the opportunity to take part in once-in-a-lifetime events has been taken away. Our graduation plans, especially for our high school students have unfortunately become casualties to unintended consequences of shutdowns due to COVID 19 and has left many of them (and their parents) alienated in a sense. Many have a shown angst and frustration concerning the fact that they will not experience a prom or have a Grad night. And to most (although the thought was uncomfortable), it was understood and appreciated that these events would be canceled or postponed due to the current health crisis. However, graduation for most was non negotiable and considered unfair. The good news is that as of yesterday the drive-through graduations have been approved within our city! We will be able to celebrate our graduating seniors in a traditional way (albeit with some modifications), and give them the send off that they deserve.

There will be a grad speech by our valedictorian (Abigail Vera, first generation college student headed to UCLA!), an encouraging address from our very own Principal Cota, and an atmosphere of celebration for one of the most resilient graduating class we’ve ever seen. Let’s do the best we can to celebrate our senior class, wherever we see them. They’ve endured amidst unprecedented uncertainty and have continued to achieve!

The DHS Family Alliance Presents the Grade Glow Up!

This is a program designed to ensure that our students have opportunities to continue to pursue academic excellence and improve their grades. Special shoutout to Principal Caroline Cota and Ms. Alisia Everett for graciously contributing to this section.

“The #DHSGradeGlowUp is a social media campaign with the DHS Family Alliance Team. Its through ONE Future Coachella and it is designed to highlight student participation during Distance Learning. The schools in DHS have been encouraging our students to demonstrate that they are still working hard to get their grades to “Glow Up”. Teachers have been nominating students, but they can nominate themselves by posting on social media using the hashtag #DHSGradeGlowUp. A member of the alliance searches social media platforms and students are eligible to win prizes that are distributed on Mondays at the Borrego Center. This is to increase traffic at Borrego and allow students and their families to receive recognition. Some of the prizes include gift cards to local vendors such as subway subs, Del Taco and In-N-Out.” Alisia Everett, Counselor DHS High.

I asked Principal Cota the next few questions:

How do you anticipate this helping and even preparing students for next year?

“Students who take advantage of this opportunity will benefit in two ways. First, they will improve their grades, including those who were previously failing a class. That means fewer students would need to repeat a course and they would have more options for their classes next year. Every class they pass is worth five credits toward their high school diploma, so it’s important to pass as many as they can. For students who were already passing their classes, this is also an opportunity to improve their grades, earn higher GPAs, and qualify for more prestigious universities and more scholarships. The other advantage in completing distance learning is simply to keep their brains active and learning. Practice makes perfect, and it’s important to keep practicing our skills so that we don’t lose them. That is true with brain activity, just as it is true with physical activity. Building up their skills now will help our students be more successful when they begin their new classes in the fall.”

What is the pulse of the senior class?

“This has been a very difficult season for our seniors. They have weathered the storm and gone through a grieving process for the loss of many of the traditional celebrations they would normally have had. Going beyond those rites of passage, some also shared with me via email, tweets, and at the drive-thru cap and gown pick up that they felt the loss of being with their teachers and their peers on campus to finish their last year of high school. The sudden closure didn’t give them the opportunity to have those last conversations and hugs with the people they spent their high school years with. They are missing that sense of closure that only in-person human connection can fully provide. That being said, I have really been impressed with the way in which they have maintained hope and treated one another and their teachers with kindness and understanding. I’ve now watched multiple speeches and interview footage of our students in which they were gracious and tried to inspire others to be strong, focus on the future and appreciate all the memories they DID have a chance to share as a class. Our seniors are truly demonstrating resilience and leadership in the face of adversity.”

How do you feel?

For my part, I feel the loss of in-person contact. I have multiple meetings via zoom with district, school and community leaders, but that cannot replace the feel of being on campus with our students and staff. I miss teachers popping into my office or joining me to talk at lunch supervision and students stopping me just to say hi or ask me a question. Little things like waving at cars during the lunch pickups on Wednesdays take on so much meaning when so little human interaction is allowed! Finally being able to personally give the seniors their diploma covers at the cap and gown pick up meant the world to me. I saw students and parents recording their teachers and counselors congratulating them as they drove through and I got to exchange a few words of encouragement with each student and family. That was the best day I’ve had since March 13! Now, I can’t wait to see all our seniors walk across the stage at our upcoming socially distant senior drive-thru celebrations. We can’t give them the traditional graduation that we all pictured before March, but we are trying our best to provide them with the feel of walking across the stage and the photo opportunity in their cap and gown before their virtual graduation on June 1.

What message would you give our seniors who have worked so hard and won’t have a chance to experience a traditional graduation celebration?

I know that this is not the graduation you dreamed about throughout the past four years. And for that, I am sincerely sorry. You now belong to a special group of Americans who not only lived through COVID-19, but share a very special bond. As Class of 2020 graduates, you are survivors of a traumatic experience and I believe this will make you stronger and even more successful in the future. I also hope you will learn through this experience the importance of human relationships and rites of passage. Like the generation that grew up during the Great Depression and WWII, I hope that you will take the lead in rebuilding our society into an even better version, one in which people remember the way we came together during this crisis and truly helped one another. I will forever be proud of the grace and maturity you showed during this difficult time. I also hope you will remember that COVID may have gotten in the way of the celebrations, but nothing can take away your achievement! You are high school graduates now. You earned that title, whether the celebration happens in your homes or in a stadium does not change the huge accomplishment of earning a high school diploma. So be proud and go take on the world, Golden Eagles!

“One of my favorite quotes comes from Harriet Tubman, who said:
“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” -Harriet Tubman, abolitionist
You’ve already gotten through a huge challenge and we all believe in your ability to face any roadblocks that stand in your way in the future. Nothing can stop you from reaching all the goals you set for yourself, so DREAM BIG and DO BIG, like the class of 2020 always has!”

Principal Caroline Cota


Once again, the big hearts in this community have stepped up. Our Rotary Club, some of our churches, businesses, and even some individuals have all take it upon themselves to adopt a senior! This endeavor allows us to show our seniors just how proud of you them we are trading gift baskets full of gift certificates and other goodies! Thank you for caring for our graduates, thank you for being DHS!

note: some of the pictures inside this publication are of our seniors and their college choices.
Dr. Kephyan Sheppard, Community Champion, Advancing DHS

[7606094678] [] [ADHS]
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