While graduation is a formality for some, 26 students from Monterey High’s continuation program hooped, hollered and cried after turning their tassels during the school’s 36th annual commencement on campus Friday afternoon.
The school’s motto, “A Second Chance for Success” hangs above the doors to its main entrance and offered many of the 46 graduates a chance at redemption.
“I will be the first of my parent’s kids to be graduating,” student Epiphany Avalos said. “It’s a big moment for them and us, and it feels unreal.”
Avalos, who has a full-time job and is saving money to attend college, said she was grateful for the care and acceptance at Monterey High.
“I felt like I wasn’t going to amount to anything before Monterey,” Avalos said. “But they generally wanted me to do better and gave me the right encouragement.”
Senior Hermine Keshishyan was honored during the event for leading the Class of 2019 in service learning hours.
Although Burbank Unified mandates 10 hours of community service for graduation, Keshishyan topped her peers with 512.50 hours and was the only student with 200 or more hours.
“Not too many places give you second chances and the fact this school gave you second chances, it was ‘wow,’” said Keshishyan, who plans to attend Los Angeles Valley College and study nursing in the fall. “People here wanted you to graduate and get second chances in life.”
The graduation was also the swan song for principal Ann Brooks, who estimated she has graduated 1,500 students and sent another 400 back to their original comprehensive high schools.
The 20-year Monterey administrator wrote a letter to her final class, read by English teacher Jamie Reeves, suggesting they must always manage to decompress.
“Find some time to turn off the phones and computers,” Reeves said. “Spend that time with your family, with your friends or alone. Play a game, watch a movie, share a meal, take a walk, go for a hike [or] breathe.”
Administrators also handed out a few awards, with Iman Wiley being named the Monterey High Student of the Year and Rony Sarkissians earning the “Rising Star” Award. Abigail Krueger also received a scholarship.
“Up until the point you graduate, you’re building skills you need here,” Sarkissians said. “No matter whatever caused you to fall behind, there’s nothing negative here. It’s all positive.”
The school even received a community boost from some Burbank businesses with Jeff Snow, owner of ProtecTARPS, donating the stage background tarp, Dunn-Edward gifting 16 gallons of paint and Home Depot donating several plants, all of which were used for the ceremony.
“This is a total community, and I’m going to miss that,” Keshishyan said. “I don’t know what would have happened to me without Monterey.”