Nicole Muñoz will be the first person in her family to go to college.

Muñoz’s journey to Thursday night’s graduation ceremony for the Crescenta Valley High School class of 2008 has not been easy.

She immigrated four years ago to the United States from Mexico, she said.

Muñoz didn’t speak English and had to slowly teach herself the language.

She kept studying and enrolled in the high school’s Academy of Science and Medicine, Muñoz said.

For three years, she was tutored about medicine and healthcare, learned about emergency medical response, frequented hospitals to learn more about medicine, trained as a lifeguard and had an internship.

Life became tougher for Muñoz after her father was arrested and deported, she said.

When he returned to the United States, he was in a car accident that left him paralyzed and unable to speak. Muñoz and her mother had to fend for themselves, finding different opportunities to earn money to maintain the household.

Muñoz took odd jobs, such as baby-sitting, to help out.

“I would go to work, then go to school or go to school, then go to work,” Muñoz said.

The graduation ceremony was bittersweet and the end of four tough years, she said.

Muñoz was joined by her 694 classmates in the ceremony at Stengel Field.

Seniors — women wearing light blue and men in dark blue caps and gowns — walked toward the center of the field at about 5:30 p.m. while their families and friends cheered.

Susan Y. Lee, who was the class valedictorian with a 4.5 grade-point average, was presented her certificate by a mechanical robot in a light blue cap and gown.

Glendale Unified School District Board of Education member Mary Boger told the graduating seniors that it was their time to be independent.

“Dream on a large scale, and do not be afraid to fail,” Boger said.

Of the 695 seniors who graduated, 654 participated in community service and accumulated 65,002 hours of service, Crescenta Valley High principal Linda Evans told the crowd.

Muñoz was one of the 654 seniors who volunteered in community service activities.

A medal honoring Muñoz’s bilingual language accomplishments and a red stethoscope joined her community service medals hanging from her neck.

“I am the first one to go to college,” she said. “I am just so relieved.”

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