MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif. (KION) After spending the majority of their final year of high school behind a computer screen, seniors are celebrating their graduation in person.
"It's a recognition of the four years of the work that we've all put in. And I think that we deserve to be recognized in this way,” said Alisal Union High School Valedictorian David Cabrera.
Seniors under the salinas union high school district had the opportunity to leave high school wearing their cap and gown. Seniors said they were worried it wouldn't happen, especially those who are first-generation.
"I'm the oldest in my family. So it feels good like being the first to go on stage and be an example to my younger siblings," said Campos.
Both the parents of Claudia Campos and Fatima Arias immigrated from Mexico. Both of these seniors said their parents' journey motivated them through their school years. For that reason, a graduation ceremony means so much to them.
"I have an older sibling that like he didn't wasn't able to walk the stage,” said Arias. “I felt like I was walking for him and my parents. It made me proud, it made me tear up a little, being able to do that for them and for myself.”
Jairo Alejo is the Student Body President and also a son of immigrants. Graduating from high school is a privilege for him and his family, he said. He's glad to be able to see his classmates in person on this special day for them.
“It's hard not to get emotional over it, I feel proud,” said Alejo. “I'm proud of all of them. We've all worked hard, especially coming from the East Side of Salinas. We don't get as much recognition as other schools, but we work twice as hard.”
Graduating seniors and visitors had to wear masks throughout the ceremony. Several high schools held multiple sessions in order to have all graduates, family, and friends remain socially distant.
Mikaela Arista said it was difficult having to start their senior year virtually. But, she's happy to be able to end her senior year in person.
“I’m just so grateful and blessed to even be physically standing here, especially with everything we've been through this past year,” said Arista. “It's a great sign of resiliency from us and our school.”