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‘Strength and resilience’: Los Amigos High puts on a virtual graduation for seniors

Alexandra Lopez, 17, bottom right, is celebrated by family and friends as they watch Los Amigos' virtual graduation Friday.
Alexandra Lopez, 17, bottom right, is celebrated by family and friends as they gather at her home in Santa Ana on Friday to watch a virtual graduation ceremony for Los Amigos High School’s Class of 2020.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Both students and staff agreed that an online graduation went beyond anything they could have imagined.

Certainly, it was not the commencement ceremony of their dreams, but the virtual graduation put on by Los Amigos High School and the Garden Grove Unified School District provided many of the heartwarming moments expected of such an occasion.

Dr. Amy Avina, the principal of Los Amigos, acknowledged during the virtual livestream that many of her students have gone through struggles and urged them to not let those challenges define them.

“Do not carry these disappointments with you into the future as heavy burdens which turn into resentment,” Avina said. “Instead, let these past few months and years shape you into warriors of strength and resilience.”

The prevailing message throughout the production was one of perseverance, as the class of 2020 has shown since having many of the anticipated senior events like prom and grad night impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

“This will not be the end of all of us,” said Richard Nguyen, the school’s valedictorian, in a speech during the event. “I know it’s easy now to complain and resent the loss of our year, to post angry stories on Instagram, to let everyone know that this is not fair, but in doing so, we only rob ourselves of a chance to look past this obstacle in life and toward the bright futures that shine before us.”

Honoring this year’s graduating seniors from high schools in Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Laguna Beach and other parts of Orange County.

In his speech, Andy Nguyen, one of the school’s co-salutatorians, shared advice with his classmates that he said he has personally lived by.

“The one piece of advice I want you all to take away from this is that by staying strong, staying resilient in times like these can lower the hurdle,” he said.

After the graduates were announced, videos streamed showing the graduates individually turning their tassels to symbolically complete the graduation. Clips thereafter congratulated students on being accepted into college, showing where each student would be headed in the fall.

Los Amigos graduates Alexandra Lopez, left, and Karen Arzola, center, watch their virtual graduation ceremony on Friday.
Los Amigos High School Class of 2020 graduates Alexandra Lopez, 17, left, and Karen Arzola, 17, center, watch their virtual graduation ceremony at Lopez’s home in Santa Ana on Friday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Alexandra Lopez, 17, who competed in cross-country, track and field and basketball in her time at Los Amigos, plans to continue running competitively while attending UC Merced. She said she wants to study environmental engineering.

The recipient of the “Lady Lobo Grande Award,” an honor Los Amigos athletic director Chris Sandro said went to the female athlete of the senior class, Alexandra was asked what she thought it meant to be a Lobo.

“We do have this [acronym] called PAWS, which is Perseverance, Attain, Work and Succeed, and I think that a Lobo really embodies that,” she said. “It’s really just working to succeed because in our community, it is a lot of Latinos, and you don’t really see a lot of people go outside and succeed, so I think that’s what a Lobo is. They’re looking for their own success. They’re not just waiting for it to be handed to them.”

More than 500 viewers tuned in to watch the livestream of the commencement ceremony. Kathleen Nguyen, 18, a standout guard on the girls’ basketball team, did so with her parents and sister on the computer at home.

“This just shows how strong the class of 2020 is,” Nguyen said of not having an in-person graduation. “Setback after setback, and we always get back up. That’s what this day resembles to me. A day where I use my setbacks as a launchpad to success.”

Nguyen is the first in her family to go to college. She will also attend UC Merced, where she plans to major in biological science with the goal of going to medical school.

Moises Magdaleno, 17, who was a starting inside linebacker on the football team, was unable to watch the graduation due to a work commitment, but he has an idea of what he would like to do next.

An aspiring landscaper who wants to start his own business, Moises remarked that it was special to be the class to graduate after years of watching peers accomplish the feat.

“Going through four years and remembering our freshman and sophomore year, thinking we had three years and two years left, to finally see the day come,” he said. “It just feels unreal because we’re finally one of those seniors that we see go away, and now everybody is looking at us go away, as well, so that’s special.”

Alexandra Lopez, left, and Karen Arzola celebrated with family and friends at a virtual graduation ceremony for Los Amigos.
Alexandra Lopez, 17, left, and Karen Arzola, 17, celebrated with family and friends at a virtual graduation ceremony for Los Amigos High School’s Class of 2020 at Lopez’s home in Santa Ana on Friday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)


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