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graduation

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Porter Jones. Photo by Victor Moreno

Class of 2018 Valedictorian Porter Jones delivered the following address at the Maricopa High School commencement.

 

Hello, Class of 2018 and guests! I am honored not only to be addressing the faculty, family and underclassmen around us, but also to get the chance to speak to you, my friends and peers, before we go our separate ways.

Now, I also know that I’m the last thing standing between you and a senior diploma, so I’ll try to keep my comments brief and to the point. As we all shift from side to side in our seats, wondering how much longer this can go, I’m sure that we’re all also thinking the same thing: Our actions this year have spoken louder than any speech or remark could adequately describe.

While there’s not much left to be said as far as academic achievement, extracurricular honors and sheer tenacity and grit at having finally “made it to the bell” go, we — the students, teachers and family members here tonight — have seen a tremendous amount of effort put forth in order for us to be better prepared for a world that can be both exciting and scary. With that in mind, I would like to offer some quick words of advice and comfort for those next years we have along the road.

I have noticed lately that no matter where you go, people seem to think that everything in life is out to get them. If we live with this sentiment, however, our entire lives are going to be the equivalent of a nail in search of a hammer — and that’s not much of a life, is it? No joy can come from pinning unhappiness on others. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” If the sky seems to be dropping anvils on you, find a way to build a ramada, or put those anvils to good use. “The robbed that smiles steals something from the thief,”* after all!

But some might be wondering, how can we ever expect to find satisfaction in a world with people who have different opinions than us? It is my belief that we can always treat anyone, no matter how annoying or backwards they might seem at one moment, with unfeigned charity and understanding, and still maintain our own ideals. Many wise people have noted that discussing beliefs builds faith in a cause and breeds understanding between individuals. There is nothing to fear from hearing another’s ideas. Still, remain passionate about things; never find yourself in a slump of self-doubt, because there are so many good things to live for.

We live in the greatest country of all: The United States of America. Two hundred and thirty-one years ago, a group of men drafted what has become the bedrock of our freedom and liberty. Always remember the sacrifices of others that are meant for us. This will not only help us decide the choices that remain in our lives, but also help us realize that our country’s well-being rests in our hands. I invite us to listen to George Orwell’s advice, which proclaims that “in a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” Use your abilities to search for truth, and take great pride in living in a land where “a better tomorrow” isn’t just a buzzword. Take pride in living in the “land of the free and the home of the brave!”

Lastly, I cannot leave tonight without expressing my enduring gratitude for the many role models we have had to look up to in these four years and even further before. The material for any outstanding graduation speech has really already been given to us by the leaders, confidants and supports who have provided us with morality, affection and the best sermons: good examples.

I want to personally thank my close friends, teachers, family and God above for the many blessings that have been poured out on us these four years, and relish the thought that we are living here, now! We have infinite opportunity before us, and as we travel through life I hope we will always maintain optimism and enthusiasm for it.

And here we are, five minutes older, and still waiting for a conclusion; and here I am, still drawing out every second, since the moment I end this we will bid this campus good-bye for the last time. Don’t fret about what the future has in store for us — that’s how one dies an early death. If we remember time management, work ethic, respect, honesty, patriotism, compassion and living within our means, we will go far. I have faith in every one of you, as I hope you all have in yourselves.

Tonight, I would like to end by leaving the charge of making the best of all the time, relationships, means and talents you will find in life to you, as well as the capability to fulfill your purpose in life. Good night, Class of 2018, and God bless us all.

 

Porter Jones was the valedictorian of the Maricopa High School Class of 2018. Watch other highlights of the ceremony.

*(Othello by William Shakespeare, Act I, Scene 3)


This address appears in the June issue of InMaricopa.

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Seniors gather in the gym before the graduation ceremony at Maricopa High School. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Graduation ceremonies for 356 graduates of Maricopa High School drew a standing-room-only crowd to Ram Stadium on Thursday. The students heard encouraging words from valedictorian Porter Jones (see a transcript in the June issue of InMaricopa magazine) and salutatorian Alessandro (Geo) Hernandez de la Pena, as well as Student Body President Favour Odubamowo. Twenty-one of the graduating seniors were members of the National Honor Society. See our growing gallery below (click photos to enlarge).

Photo by Victor Moreno

Sequoia Pathway Academy celebrated the graduating class in commencement exercises Friday night. More than 70 seniors graduated from the charter school as Mayor Christian Price was the guest speaker.  See senior photos of the graduates here.

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Alfred Abraham

The following is the address delivered by Maricopa High School co-valedictorian Alfred Abraham to the Class of 2017 on graduation night, May 25.

By Alfred Abraham

My name is Alfred Abraham and I am proud to be the co-valedictorian of the Maricopa High School Class of 2017. I was originally born in India and spent the first three years of my life in Singapore. When I was 3 years old, my family moved to the United States.

I started out with a lot of difficulties. I acquired the ability to speak in sentences significantly later than most kids, at the age of 5. I was placed in special education because of my difficulties in speaking and writing. Countless nights were spent, tears were shed and plenty of teachers were contacted to get me where I am today.

I have exceeded the expectations of most people, but the credit for that achievement doesn’t just go to me; it goes to my parents and my younger sister Freya who always urged me to aim high.

In my four years in Maricopa High School, I have had many great experiences. One such experience was the time when I played the piano for the Jekyll and Hyde school musical during my sophomore year. Music is something that everyone loves. Whether it be jazz, pop or rap, the beats that bring us together are just like MHS, that makes us RAMily.

Another such experience was the time when I joined a robotics team that showed what could happen when good minds collaborate. Like any group project, we didn’t know quite where we were going, but we did our best, and we finaled at competition. In my life I’ve seen this theme repeat: You don’t have to have all the steps planned out to get to success; you just have to keep moving.

Throughout my high school career, I also had access to great teachers who paid attention to my needs much more than they were required to while maintaining high academic standards. I was given no excuses, and no reasons to do anything but my best. Counselors like Mr. Veltrie helped me pick classes that were best for my abilities. Without the help and the encouragement of all these people, I would not be here today.

In all honesty, I am so grateful that Maricopa was my high school. Nowhere else will you find such a collection of caring, dedicated teachers and friendly students that welcomed me into what was our four-year home.  To all of you, too many to name who have said hello or answered my email, thank you.

Everyone who is going to receive their diploma right now knows the value of sacrifice. The principle of scarcity of resources is something that is emphasized repeatedly in economics courses. This principle applies to time since time is, after all, a scarce resource. There is only so much of it.

Students who want to get decent enough grades to graduate on time must use their time wisely. It must not be wasted on distractions. All of us who are going to receive our diploma know this to be true. We have had to give up time checking social media, playing video games or whatever else we would rather do in order to study for tests and do assignments. Why do we do this? Because we know that the payoff, a high school diploma, is a major stepping stone to success in life.

To reach this step we all have gone through our own hills and valleys. We have all broken down at one point or another. We have all felt unworthy and incapable. We all know the temptation to give up. I remember telling myself, “It doesn’t matter anyway. At least I’ve gotten this far.” If I had listened to myself, then I wouldn’t be speaking to you now. Through all the obstacles we faced we kept going. I would like to congratulate you all for doing what it takes to be here today.

But not all of us are here. There are some who gave up, who were overwhelmed. Even now, plenty of us are wondering what we will do, and how we will do it.

There is one lesson I have learned in my life: The word “impossible” is not in the dictionary of God. So anyone who is going through difficulties of any kind – students, teachers, parents and relatives, remember this: If you set the bar too low, you’ll never see what you can reach.

Graduating high school is not the end of our journey; it is merely the beginning. It is a milestone to greater achievements in life. I encourage everyone here to continue working hard and achieving. Everything you have accomplished and endured is something that will really help in the real world.

With that, I would like to congratulate the entire class of 2017 once more for their achievement.  I really am thankful to be the co-valedictorian of this graduating class!


Alfred Abraham is a co-valedictorian of the Maricopa High School Class of 2017. He will attend Arizona State University.


This speech appears in the June issue of InMaricopa, courtesy of Alfred Abraham.

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John Blodgett

The following is the address delivered by Maricopa High School co-valedictorian John Blodgett to the Class of 2017 on graduation night, May 25.

 

By John Blodgett

Good evening, Class of 2017. If you don’t know who I am, my name is John Blodgett. I would just like to note to the audience out there, that yes, the valedictorian does indeed have to write their own speech (without SparkNotes, I checked). When I asked my mother if I could just wing it, she said, and this is a direct quote mind you, “John, you are my very favorite son and always will be, so please don’t embarrass me.” So, I wrote this for her; and sorry Matt and Alex, there is always second place.

Tonight, is a special night. It is the end of our first chapter, and the beginning of the next one in our book of life. Since I know none of us read these days, it is like we are ending one Snapchat story and beginning the next one. In our time here at MHS, we have laughed, cried, and I’m pretty sure some of you thought going to Dutch [Bros.] was part of the curriculum.

Among us, we have a great number of accomplishments. Many of us competed at the state level in countless sports, multiple bands, orchestra and color guard. Some of us even qualified for nationals in DECA, theatre and Skills USA. On top of that, we even have a couple of state champions. Oh, and did you know we pulled in almost $7 million in scholarships? I mean we didn’t even need to take a 30-minute bus ride to some “better school” to do so! Also, I think we can all agree we are the best-looking class to graduate from MHS, just saying.

We could not have reached these accomplishments, however, without a great deal of support. I would like to thank all of our wonderful teachers who put up with us for four years, the administration for keeping the campus up and running, our school board, bus drivers, counselors, principal, coaches, janitorial staff, cafeteria staff, athletic trainer and, of course, our parents.

Although each of us got here because of our own hard work, I think everyone who supported us along the way deserves a round of applause.

Now, however, those times have come to a close. We will be off in many different directions to do many different things. Personally, I will be flying 2,467 miles away, to the United States Military Academy, better known as West Point.

As Mark Twain once said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” So first, shout out to all our mothers for doing step one. The next is a little harder.

During my summer visit to West Point, I determined it was my calling to go there. In four years’ time, I will be commissioned as a United States Army Officer. That is the beginning of my purpose, to protect our country, and support my community. There is no cookie-cutter way to find your purpose in life, though. You must go out and find it.

With that being said, I leave you with a challenge: No matter what your purpose ends up being, go out and make the world a better place. I know you can do it. Everyone in the stands knows you can do it. All that is left is for you to believe you can do it. When you believe in yourself, anything is possible, and I expect some great things to come from Maricopa’s Graduating Class of 2017.

Congratulations to each and every one of you. Good luck, have fun, and Go Army! Beat Navy!


John Blodgett is a co-valedictorian of the Maricopa High School Class of 2017. He will attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.


This speech appears in the June issue of InMaricopa courtesy of John Blodgett.

Photo by William Lange

The Class of 2017 will soon complete their high school journey this week as they walk across the stage, receive their diplomas and turn their tassels. Seniors from Maricopa High School graduate Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Sequoia Pathway Academy graduates will attend commencement the Friday at 7 p.m.

Maricopa High School Commencement Preview:

MHS Seniors will first hear an address from Principal Renita Myers, before Mayor Christian Price and Ak-Chin Chairman Robert Miguel speak to the crowd.

Student Body President Lillian Chitwood will act as master of ceremonies and perform a brief welcoming speech to her fellow seniors.

Following Chitwood will be speeches from Salutatorian Rachel Blakely and Co-Valedictorians John Blodgett and Alfred Abraham.

Lt. Col. Allen Kirksey and Master Sgt. Dishon Gregory will lead military honors.

A moment of silence will be held for students Luis Garcia and Logan Jones. Garcia was killed in a car accident on Interstate 10 in 2015. Jones died in April after health complications with the influenza B virus. The commemoration will be led by Alicia Garcia.

Retiring Guidance Counselor Larry Veltrie will introduce exchange students, and then the MUSD Governing Board and administration will present graduates with diplomas.

Sequoia Pathway Academy HS Graduation Preview:

Principal Nathan Lamma will welcome seniors and their families Friday evening before a series of honors are introduced by Dean of Students Justin Price, Central Arizona College and the Dorrance Scholarship.

Pathway will hear from Valedictorian Hailey Cantrell, and afterward, Lamma will return to the stage for his final address to seniors.

The commencement nears the end when school administrators present the students with diplomas, but their future is just beginning as Lamma will officially announce the Class of 2017 as high school graduates.

Graduations and water play are part of this week's activities in Maricopa.

High school graduations and other school advancements are slated for this week in Maricopa. Below, Brad Pitassi of Maricopa Fire/Medical Department talks about the fun Water Safety Day coming up Friday. For details on these and other listings, visit http://www.InMaricopa.com/Calendar/.

 

MONDAY

Color Me Calm adult coloring class is at 12:30 p.m. at Maricopa Public Library, 41600 W. Smith-Enke Road.

A Ray of Hope meeting of Narcotics Anonymous is at 7 p.m. at Maricopa Community Church, 44977 W. Hathaway Ave.

 

TUESDAY

Coffee with Friends of the Maricopa Library is at 1:30 p.m. at Maricopa Public Library, 41600 W. Smith-Enke Road.

Maricopa Police Explorer Post Meeting is at 5 p.m. at Maricopa High School, 45012 W. Honeycutt Ave.

Celebrate Recovery Coffee & Karaoke is at 5 p.m. at Maricopa Community Church, 44977 W. Hathaway Ave.

Veteran Affairs Committee is at 6 p.m. at Maricopa City Hall, 39700 W. Civic Center Plaza.

Youth Council meets at 6 p.m. at Copper Sky Multigenerational Center, Multipurpose Room A, 45345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

8th Grade Unification Ceremony is at 7 p.m. at Maricopa High School, 45012 W. Honeycutt Ave.

 

WEDNESDAY

Trip to a Diamondbacks Baseball Game leaves at 11 a.m. from Copper Sky Multigenerational Center, 44345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Harrah’s Club 777 Toastmasters meets at 3 p.m. at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino, 15406 N. Maricopa Road.

Public Hearing Officer convenes at 5 p.m. at Maricopa City Hall, 39700 W. Civic Center Plaza.

 

THURSDAY

Lapsit for ages 0-12 months is at 9 a.m. at Maricopa Public Library, 41600 W. Smith-Enke Road.

Movers & Shakers for ages 1-2 years is at 9:30 a.m. at Maricopa Public Library, 41600 W. Smith-Enke Road.

Li’l Explorers for ages 2-3 years is at 10 a.m. at Maricopa Public Library, 41600 W. Smith-Enke Road.

A Ray of Hope meeting of Narcotics Anonymous is at 7 p.m. at Ak-Chin Social Services, 48227 W. Farrell Road.

Maricopa High School Graduation is at 7:30 p.m. at Ram Stadium, 45012 W. Honeycutt Ave.

 

FRIDAY

The fifth annual Water Safety Day is at 4 p.m. at Copper Sky Aquatic Center, 44345 W Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Strength & Hope Al-Anon Meeting is at 7 p.m. at Community of Hope Church, 45295 W. Honeycutt Ave.

Sequoia Pathway Academy Graduation is at 7 p.m. at Sequoia Pathway Academy, 19287 N. Porter Road.

 

SUNDAY

A Ray of Hope meeting of Narcotics Anonymous is at Maricopa Community Church, 44977 W. Hathaway Ave.

 

As announced by the City of Maricopa, the northbound lanes of 347 from Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway to Honeycutt Road will be closed because of construction beginning at 8 p.m. through May 25.

The Maricopa Unified School District eighth grade unification/graduation ceremony will be held on May 23 at Ram Stadium and the event will dismiss after 8 p.m. The high school graduation is May 25.

People attending graduation who need to go north of the train tracks afterward are advised to go south on State Route 347, east on Farrell Road, and north on Porter Road to cross the tracks.

Some of Maricopa's "super seniors" are (from left) Nikolas Mase, Tyler Curtis, Pamela Crabajales, Abigail Paternina, John Blodgett, Diamond Sims, Aisawan Chanpraphap, Marina Vasquez and Carlos Venegas. Photo by Victor Moreno

The class of 2017 at Maricopa High School and Sequoia Pathway Academy is filled with many goal-oriented, career-minded individuals. Learn about just a few of them as they prepare for the commencement of their next steps. The MHS graduation ceremony is scheduled for May 25 at 7:30 p.m. at Ram Stadium. Co-valedictorians are Alfred Abraham and John Blodgett. Salutatorian is Rachel Blakely. The SPA ceremony is May 26 at 7 p.m. in its gymnasium. Valedictorian is Hailey Cantrell. Salutatorian is Anali Warner.

 

Alfred Abraham

Alfred Abraham (submitted photo)

Born in India and raised his first three years in Singapore, Abraham is the co-valedictorian of Maricopa High School’s graduating class. Considered to be “Special Ed” early in school, he has since been the academic leader of the Class of 2017 all through high school, with his career sights set on biomedical engineering.

Years in Maricopa: 11
Originally from: India
Career goals: Engineer

Accomplishment: Member of a team that placed eighth out of 24 in a Vex Robotics competition with limited time and resources to prepare compared to other teams.

Reaction: I was initially surprised. For much of the competition, my team was doing just average; it stayed at 12th place out of 24. But then, after the last three or four rounds, we ended up in eighth place. Immediately after a moment of surprise, I felt happy. The skill of my teammates was a key factor in our success, and I was proud of what we accomplished. This prepared me for the workforce as Vex Robotics promotes the development of scientific and mathematical skills, skills that are essential for engineering.

How do you plan to achieve your career goals? I will attend ASU in August in order to get at least a bachelor’s degree in engineering. While in college, I will do internships in my specific field, biomedical engineering, that will give me some career-related experience. I also aim to get a part-time job around Maricopa after my graduation so I can get some experience in the workplace.

 

Rachel Blakely

Rachel Blakely (submitted photo)

A long-timer by local standards, Blakely has been a Maricopa resident since kindergarten and is now the salutatorian of her class at Maricopa High School. As a freshman she was already taking junior-level math and tackled senior-level math as a sophomore, setting herself on the path to a career.

Years in Maricopa: 13
Originally from: Mesa
Career goal: High school math teacher

Accomplishment: Being two years ahead in math

Reaction: Proud of my hard work and realized it was something I wanted to do in my life after high school.

How do you plan to achieve your career goals? Attend University of Portland and major in secondary education and mathematics, hard work, determination and dedication.

 

John Blodgett

John Blodgett. Photo by Victor Moreno

A co-valedictorian at Maricopa High School, Blodgett is a cadet major in the Air Force Junior ROTC program, Link Crew leader, National Honor Society member, teacher assistant, Robotics team member, member of cross country and track teams and a member of Si Se Puede Foundation. He received two military academy appointments and chose West Point.

Years in Maricopa: 12
Originally from: Phoenix
Career goal: U.S. Army officer

Accomplishment: Receiving appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point

Reaction: I was very excited! Knowing that all of my hard work in high school had gotten me accepted to one of the best schools in the country caused great joy to surge through me.

How do you plan to achieve your career goals? I plan on continuing to strive for my goals by trying to be the best I can in everything I do, while at the same time helping others do the same.

 

Hailey Cantrell

Hailey Cantrell (submitted photo)

Cantrell is the valedictorian at Sequoia Pathway Academy. A member of the National Honor Society, she has been on every Principal’s List throughout high school. She completed two college English courses and a child development course and has been a mentor. She will attend Grand Canyon University and plans to return to PSA as an assistant Student Council advisor.

Years in Maricopa: 7
Originally from: Newport Beach, California
Career goal: Teacher, administrator, professor

Accomplishment: Student Council president for two years

Reaction: We all went through our speeches, and when I finished everyone smiled. It made me happy because I was elected to lead and better our school.

How do you plan to achieve your career goals? I will continue to stay organized, responsible and not give up. Also, this career is what makes me happy. I just want to help students; I want to teach them valuable lessons. 

 

Aisawan Chanpraphap

Aisawan Chanpraphap. Photo by Victor Moreno

Chanpraphap’s family moved to the United States when she was 7 years old and moved from Virginia to Maricopa when she was in fifth grade. A gifted art student at Maricopa High School, she also runs cross country and track.

Years in Maricopa: 7
Originally from: Thailand
Career goal: Art teacher

Accomplishment: Won second place at Art on the Veranda against professionals

Reaction: I went to help out at Art on the Veranda expecting it to be the same as last year, where all I did was help sell art pieces, but during the early morning session I noticed a judge circling around my art piece and examining it. I did not want to get my hopes up so I kind of pushed it to the back of my mind, to the point that I actually forgot about it altogether. So it came as a big shock when the judge came back around and told me to go get my ribbon in front of a small crowd!

How do you plan to achieve your career goals? Attend NAU majoring in art education in the fall, and once I am more financially independent I would like to attend an actual art school, preferably The Art Institute of Chicago.

 

Pamela Crabajales

Pamela Crabajales. Photo by Victor Moreno

Crabajales has been involved with a number of institutions around town, from Youth Council to Maricopa Police Department, while being a member of the National Honor Society and DECA at Maricopa High School. She is a Link Crew leader and school newspaper editor.

Years in Maricopa: 7
Originally from: Philippines
Career goal: United Nations nurse

Accomplishment: Having the opportunity to volunteer with the different organizations in Maricopa. It led me to find my passion in helping to serve others.

Reaction: One day that really stuck out to me was when I was volunteering for Against Abuse Inc. with their latest gala. That night I saw how much the cause meant a lot to people and I felt like I was a part of something great. I realized how much I enjoyed giving back to my community.

How do you plan to achieve your career goals? I plan on taking steps before leaping to my main goal of being a United Nations nurse by attending college and later specializing in forensics so that I gain plenty of experience and help plenty of people along the way. 

 

Tyler Curtis

Tyler Curtis. Photo by Victor Moreno

Curtis has grown from being the Maricopa Unified School District spelling champ in elementary school to a virtual repertory actor in four plays a year. She will attend a private conservatory in New York City.

Years in Maricopa: 7
Originally from: Denver, Colorado
Career goal: Broadway performer

Accomplishment: Cast as Madame Thenardier in “Les Miserables”

Reaction: It was my favorite role out of the 12 I’ve been able to do at MHS.

How do you plan to achieve your career goals? I’m attending the American Musical and Dramatic Academy to pursue musical theatre to continue my training.

  

Nikolas Mase

Nikolas Mase. Photo by Victor Moreno

An accomplished singer and actor, garnering scores of Excellent and Superior in state competition, Mase came to Maricopa High School from Legacy Traditional School.

Years in Maricopa: 5
Originally from: New York
Career goal: Broadway performer and theater teacher

Accomplishment: Playing Javert in “Les Miserables”

Reaction: I was ecstatic. Javert has been one of my dream roles, and I was amazed that I had the opportunity to portray his character as a high schooler.

How do you plan to achieve your career goals? I am planning on pursuing an education in musical theatre. After getting the training I need, I am going to move to New York and start auditioning for shows on Broadway. After obtaining my degree I would also like to become certified to teach theatre so I can continue to inspire students just as my high school theatre teacher inspired me.

 

Karla Orci Vega

Karla Orci Vega (submitted photo)

Orci Vega is on track to earn two nursing certificates through CAVIT by her Maricopa High School graduation. Also a softball player, she is planning to earn her master’s degree in nursing, taking her next educational step at Central Arizona College.

Years in Maricopa: 11
Originally from: Tempe
Career goal: Nurse practitioner

Accomplishment: Getting accepted into the CAVIT Nursing Program

Reaction: I got a letter in the mail telling me I was accepted into the program. I felt relieved because it was a huge step in the right direction for me. It made me feel excited as well because it would help me determine if nursing would be the right career for me.

How do you plan to achieve your career goals going forward? I will be attending CAC in Maricopa. Then I will transfer to ASU and finish school there.

 

Abigail Paternina

Abigail Paternina. Photo by Victor Moreno

A child of immigrants, Paternina took several AP classes at Sequoia Pathway Academy after advancing from Leading Edge Academy, received a class poetry award her junior year and was named Homecoming queen this year. She will attend Northern Arizona University.

Years in Maricopa: 11
Originally from: Clifton, New Jersey
Career goal: Cultural studies

Accomplishment: Full-ride scholarship to NAU

Reaction: I still recall the utmost joy I felt upon receiving the admission call that fateful day in November. I was home alone and could not stop thanking the admissions officer after she told me, and upon my parents’ arrival home, could not stop the beam that overtook my features when telling them the news of my admission.

How do you plan to achieve your career goals? I plan on achieving these goals by applying and pushing myself toward excellence and beyond boundaries in college, and by exposing myself to new opportunities by putting myself out there. After university, I plan on joining the Peace Corps and embarking on a two-year mission abroad in Colombia, in order to give back to my parents’ home country, which I would be nothing without.

 

Diamond Sims

Diamond Sims. Photo by Victor Moreno

Sims came to Maricopa High School as a freshman and soon set a goal to obtain a master’s degree in law. Wanting to do that as soon as possible, she attended summer school to put her on the path to graduating a year early and will attend Arizona State University.

Years in Maricopa: 3
Originally from: Joliet, Illinois
Career goal: Criminal attorney

Accomplishment: Completing two classes of summer school to qualify for early graduation

Reaction: During the last day of my summer classes I was anxious and relieved because I knew the following summer I’d be getting ready to go to college to finally start my dream career.

How do you plan to achieve your career goals going forward? I’ll complete 10 years of schooling and within the first eight years I’ll do internships to build up my skill to become a criminal lawyer.

 

Robinson Torres

Robinson Torres (submitted photo)

An honor roll student at Maricopa High School, Torres is a nursing program student in CAVIT, helping at a clinic in Sacaton. He has worked blood drives and helped feed needy children. He will attend Central Arizona College.

Originally from: Brooklyn, New York
Career goal: Physical therapist/sports medicine

Accomplishment: CAVIT Clinics

Reaction: The CAVIT clinics helped people. It was heart-warming and breath-taking.

How do you plan to achieve your career goals? Going to CAC for two years, thanks to my Promise to the Future, then I’ll transfer to a four-year university that specializes in my desired profession. Most important part to achieve my goal is hard work and dedication.

 

Marina Vasquez

Marina Vasquez. Photo by Victor Moreno

Vasquez leaped two grades to graduate early from Sequoia Pathway Academy, where she took four AP courses, has a 4.3 grade point average and is a member of the National Honor Society. She used online courses to teach herself quantum mechanics. She will attend Arizona State University Barrett Honors College.

Years in Maricopa: 11
Originally from: Southern California
Career goal: Professional puzzle solver (aka mechanical engineer)

Accomplishment: Graduating two years early

Reaction: The day that it sunk in I was graduating at 15 was the most excited (and terrified) I had ever felt. The sense of accomplishment was so outstanding that all my fears were set aside because I had no doubt in my mind that this was the best choice that I could have made.

How do you plan to achieve your career goals? I put my heart and soul into everything I do, and my biggest goal throughout college is to keep that passion and find ways to showcase it in my work. I believe grit and work ethic are the two deciding factors for success and I will strive to carry these traits with me in order to help achieve my career goals.

 

Carlos Venegas

Carolos Venegas. Photo by Victor Moreno

Venegas came to Maricopa High School his sophomore year and has been heavily involved in the MHS Theatre Company, landing leads in “Les Miserables” and “Beauty & the Beast,” and also playing community theater. He will attend the University of Arizona.

Years in Maricopa: 3
Originally from: Salt Lake City, Utah
Career goal: Musical theatre

Accomplishment: Achieved highest score of “superior” for solo in Central Arizona Festival of Theatre

Reaction: I took “Bring Him Home,” so it was a song I was very familiar with. I just let all the practice take over and focused more on calming my nerves and making sure those didn’t take over in my song. … You just try to do the best you can do and wait for the results at the end of the day. It was definitely a really good experience, though, connecting with other schools and competing.

How do you plan to achieve your career goals? An actor’s job is not to act but to audition, because you do so much more auditioning than you do performing. So I’ve worked a lot on auditioning with everything I have and being able to display the best me talent-wise that I can put forth. So I’ve been really working on that and hopefully that will help me reach that end goal of being able to perform hopefully for the rest of my life.

 

Anali Warner

Anali Warner (submitted photo)

Warner is the salutatorian of Sequoia Pathway’s Class of 2017. She will attend Northern Arizona University on a Lumberjack Scholarship. Though her major is undecided, she would like her abilities channeled into community service.

Years in Maricopa: 4
Originally from: Racine, Wisconsin
Career goal: To be well-informed, comfortable and active in helping others in whatever I do.

Accomplishment: Inducted into National Honor Society

Reaction: Joyful and motivated. Being able to achieve such a high award made me realize that I am capable of achieving whatever I strive for and that I am capable of greatness.

How do you plan to achieve your career goals? I plan on attending college and going on to higher education in the future. I intend to get involved in my community and activism, to improve others’ well-being and my own. I also plan on joining committees and social groups that coordinate with my future career, goals and interests.


This story appears in the May issue of InMaricopa.

Nicholas Sherrod took the road less traveled to earn his high school diploma. Photo by Mason Callejas

A Maricopa man has at last earned his high school diploma with the help of a program recently created by his employer – McDonald’s.

Nicholas Sherrod, 20, dropped out of Maricopa High School three years ago, and now, with the help of a new program at his work, he was finally able to get his high school credentials.

Born in Everett, Washington, Sherrod moved with his parents to Maricopa when he was 14. Both were managers at a McDonald’s in Washington and relocated to the Phoenix area to help with several new locations.

While attending MHS, Sherrod got a job at a Maricopa McDonald’s locations almost as soon as he was eligible to work. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for him to begin to struggle with his work schedule and keeping his grades up.

“School wasn’t really for me,” Sherrod said. “It got to the point where I was getting bad grades but I passed every test I got.”

Sherrod’s problem wasn’t attendance or exams; it was homework. He would never complete his regular homework due to his busy work schedule.

After struggling for a few years to fit the typical high-school mold, Sherrod decided to leave the dream of a diploma behind and embrace the reality of work and the steady income it provided.

Fast-forward three years. After he worked his way around several McDonald’s locations and toyed with the idea of returning for his diploma, Sherrod’s fiancée, Kayla, successfully convinced him to go and get it. After spending a brief time with another online diploma program, he learned about the Archways to Opportunities program, launched in early 2016, and knew instantly it was right for him.

Photo by Mason Callejas
Photo by Mason Callejas

Through the program, McDonalds offers eligible employees a free online high school diploma through Career Online High School, not a GED.

His experience through the Archways program was considerably better than his previous online school experience. The teachers, he said, were much more involved, calling and emailing multiple times a week. This accountability Sherrod believes created a better, more thorough, learning environment.

“They don’t let you wait until the last minute,” Sherrod said. “They cut it up so you don’t get behind.”

At the time of Sherrod’s exiting from MHS, there were not many options for people like him. Now, as the Maricopa Unified School District ramps up its recently founded alternative learning program – The Ram Academy – Sherrod feels he “probably” would have benefited from the program.

“I’m just glad that people will have the opportunity now,” Sherrod said.

Getting his high school diploma is not the end of the road for Sherrod, by far. Currently he is engaged to be married, and is in the process of buying a home. After settling in he hopes to get his real estate license and become an agent.

Archways spokesperson Katy Reeves said the program is designed to help employees move up and out into other industries.

“McDonald’s knows they are going to lose really great people and they’re OK with that because they want to help them reach their goals,” Reeves said.

In barely a year, the program has helped more than 200 McDonald’s employees in Arizona, and has invested nearly $200,000 in the program.

The Archways to Opportunity Program also offers eligible employees, those with nine months of employment, the chance to learn English through the English under the Arches program, college tuition assistance and an advising service to help their employees achieve their goals.

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A record 59 seniors graduated from Sequoia Pathway Academy on Thursday night in a packed gymnasium. Emma Mastel was the valedictorian of the Class of 2016. Andrew Helm was the salutatorian. Helm and Brendan Onquit also received their associate’s degrees from Central Arizona College.

Maricopa High School graduates take their places at Ram Stadium. Photo by William Lange

Maricopa High School may have had its largest class of graduates ever on Thursday night, but a crisp pace had the 336 seniors tassel-turned and back with friends and families relatively quickly.

The stands on both sides of Ram Stadium were filled as the crowd heard from seven speakers on a fine night.

Maricopa High School Graduation is May 19 at 7:30 p.m. Speakers include Robert Miguel (submitted photo), Christian Price (photo by William Lange), Savannah Hull (photo by MHS Digital Photography), Siena Garcia (photo by MHS Digital Photography) and Principal Renita Myers (InMaricopa file photo).

When Robert Miguel speaks to the graduating seniors of Maricopa High School on Thursday, it won’t just be as chairman of the Ak-Chin Indian Community.

He is also speaking as the father of two of the graduates.

He is also marking the 30th anniversary of his own graduation from the same school.

Miguel can’t remember who spoke at his graduation in 1986, but he wants the Class of 2016 to have better recall.

“I’m going to tell them, ‘Remember the night and who’s sitting next to you,’” he said. “My class was the biggest at the time and it was 56 students. Eighty percent of them I’ve never seen since graduation. So look around, look beside you and see who’s there, because it might be the last time you see them.”

MHS has 336 graduating seniors.

He said being asked to be a speaker at graduation was emotional for him. “How many parents can say they were the guest speaker at their child’s graduation?” he said. “It just put the cherry on top of the ice cream.”

Maricopa High School graduation starts at 7:30 p.m. on May 19 at Ram Stadium.
Other speakers:
Mayor Christian Price
Principal Renita Myers
Valedictorian Savannah Hull
Salutatorian Sienna Garcia
Student Body President Ciera Reynolds
Senior Class President Cristina Lorayes
Class motto: “Remember yesterday, Dream for tomorrow, Live for today.”


In the past 30 years, he has watched a lot of changes at MHS. The growth is obvious, but he’s also pleased with the depth and diversity of some programs and “many more opportunities at the school than there were in my time,” particularly the students’ ability to get started in college while still in high school.

“The staff and officials try to adapt, and the growth approached them really, really quick, so they’re trying to play catch-up with some programs,” he said.

Miguel specifically noted the special-needs program. One of his daughters going through Thursday’s exercises is a special-needs student.

“I know they are behind in that, they’re lacking in that as far as staffing and the services they need to provide,” he said. “But I understand, because the growth hit them so vastly. Hopefully in the future they’ll improve the programming. But Maricopa’s a good school overall.”

Even as a teen, Miguel said, he knew he wanted to be a tribal leader, “but I didn’t know how I was going to get there.”

He said he wants this year’s seniors to know they will face many obstacles before they reach their goals. They will face different opportunities and failures, even different jobs than anticipated.

“They’re going to go through highs and lows, but it’s those things that are going to make you succeed and push you to be who you’re eventually going to become,” the chairman said.

Miguel said though he wanted to be in tribal leadership like his maternal grandfather, Jonas Miguel, who raised him, he worked as a farm laborer, worked in parks and recreation, and spent 17 years as a photojournalist for the community newspaper. He said now he sees how those careers are part of his understanding of tribal leadership.

He said words he’s lived by since junior high are “Failure is a part of success. If you’re afraid of failure, you’ll never succeed.” He said his grandfather told him “never to be afraid to go after what you want to become.”

He also credits several others with keeping him on the right path and believing in him. When Miguel was in high school, Police Chief Milton Paul Antone threw him in jail for no reason.

“After a couple of hours he came to my jail cell, and of course I was afraid. And he told me, ‘You know why I threw you in jail?’ And I said, ‘No, I don’t know why.’ And he told me basically I was hanging around with a bad crowd. I needed to make a decision. There’s a wrong road and a right road.”

Antone was later killed in the line of duty, but his effort to guide Miguel has had a 30-year impact.

“It was really important that he believed in me and made me make a choice to go right or left,” he said.

Besides the entire Miguel family and his cousins the Peters brothers – Cecil, David and Norbert – who took him under wing and supported him with advice and even financially, previous and current tribal council members have helped him become who he is now.

Though Miguel is an easy talker and accustomed to addressing large crowds, he’s nervous about speaking at graduation.

“My girls are going to be there,” he said. “But I’m living the dream, and it only gets better.”


The students listed below may or may not have met the requirements for graduating at the time of publication.