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Class of 2016 praises Monterey High School’s sense of ‘family’

Jeremy Johnson receives diploma

Jeremy Johnson, center, is all smiles after receiving his diploma during Monterey High School’s 33rd commencement, held at Luther Burbank Middle School on Wednesday, June 8, 2016.

(Photo by Mike Mullen)

On Wednesday evening, Monterey High School celebrated 60 graduates who overcame obstacles to earn their high school diplomas.

For many of the students who graduated from the continuation high school, they arrived at Monterey after attending Burroughs or Burbank high schools, but faced personal or academic challenges that led them to enroll at Monterey to earn better grades or make up classes in a focused effort to graduate.

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Dressed in his graduation gown as he waited for the ceremony to begin, Chris Khalil said he wouldn’t have been graduating if it weren’t for the teachers at Monterey.

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“I wouldn’t be standing here if it wasn’t for Monterey,” he said, adding that the teachers pushed him to succeed after he earned a series of Fs.

“They focus on you,” he said. “It’s like a little family, honestly.”

Assistant Principal Leonidas Tarca speaks

Assistant Principal Leonidas Tarca speaks as the Class of 2016 looks on during the Monterey High School's graduation ceremony held at Luther Burbank Middle School on Wednesday, June 8, 2016.

(Photo by Mike Mullen)

After graduation, he plans to join his family in operating local markets and gas stations.

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Fellow graduate Nicolette Torres agreed with Khalil and described Monterey as “all one family.”

She plans to work, save money for college and pursue a law degree.

“I’m excited and nervous at the same time,” she said. “I’m ending a chapter, and I’m going to start a new one after this.”

Leonidas Tarca, assistant principal at Monterey, said before the ceremony that the class of 2016 is made up of “a bunch of really, really good kids” who have beat the odds to succeed.

Monterey High School graduate Chris Khalil

Graduate Chris Khalil, celebrates while holding two bouquets flowers after Monterey High School's commencement on Wednesday, June 8, 2016.

(Photo by Mike Mullen)

“They’ve overcome some major obstacles. These kids not only defied the odds of graduating on time, but did it successfully. I think as they come to Monterey from a traditional site, whether it be Burroughs or Burbank [high schools], they change mentally and spiritually, and they believe in themselves,” he said. “It takes a small school to do it.”

Nawal Harb said she is grateful for her teachers at Monterey, particularly Jamie Reeves, who supported her immensely.

“They were always there for me, and they were always really understanding. That’s what I love about them,” she said.

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After graduation, Harb plans to attend college and study psychology.

“I am grabbing life by the horns and becoming an adult,” she said. “I worked really hard. The fact that I made it this far, I know what I’m capable of.”

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Kelly Corrigan, kelly.corrigan@latimes.com

Twitter: @kellymcorrigan


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