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Early College High School’s class of 2021 draws lessons from a challenging year

Early College High School graduates enter Jim Scott Stadium at Estancia High for their 2021 commencement ceremony Thursday.
Early College High School graduates, including decorated scholars Paulina Vasquez, from right, and Ivan Sotelo look up at family and friends as they enter Jim Scott Stadium at Estancia High for their 2021 commencement ceremony on Thursday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The Jim Scott Stadium at Costa Mesa’s Estancia High School provided the perfect backdrop Thursday for an intimate commencement ceremony, as graduates from Early College High School’s class of 2021 closed the book on an unforgettable senior year.

Proud family members, limited to four per student, looked on as 33 graduates claimed their diplomas. This year’s graduation is the 12th in the school’s history, but stands out for several reasons, according to Principal Dave Martinez.

Graduates share a tearful embrace at the Early College High School graduation at Estancia High's Jim Scott Stadium Thursday.
Graduates share a tearful embrace following the Early College High School graduation at Estancia High’s Jim Scott Stadium on Thursday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Last year’s virtual commencement comprised pre-recorded clips and speeches, as the pandemic forced the Class of 2020 to participate from the safety of their living rooms. In-person ceremonies resumed this year, but with special precautions in place.

For example, student speakers — Paulina Enriquez Vazquez, Nancy Plata and Bryan Uraga — shared words of wisdom from behind specially made face masks, which bore “Class of 2021" and the school’s logo. The venue was another first, as Early College typically holds graduation ceremonies inside Orange Coast College’s Robert B. Moore Theatre.

Speaking by email Friday, Martinez encouraged students to find lessons in this year’s challenges.

“Finish what you started no matter how bleak the trail ahead looks,” he said. “Keep the faith, keep believing in yourself, and keep pressing on.”

Early College High School graduates secure their caps during gusty winds as they enter Jim Scott Stadium Thursday, June 3.
Early College High School graduates hold onto their caps during a gust of wind as they enter Jim Scott Stadium at Estancia High for their commencement ceremony Thursday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

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