San Andreas graduates step into next chapter

San Andreas Continuation School students prepare to walk in their commencement exercises, held this week at the Veterans Memorial Building. 

Hollister resident Stephanie Ortiz was afraid she wouldn’t finish high school after she became a teen mom, but she graduated a year early after switching to San Andreas Continuation School.
As Ortiz prepared to walk into the Veterans Memorial Building in downtown Hollister, where she would graduate with about 65 classmates, her sister, Nancy, 15, had a smartphone out, ready to take capture the moment.
“It actually means a lot,” Nancy said. “She came a long way to graduate, through a lot of struggles.”
Just moments before, in a side room of the same building, Jackie Lozano, 18, a San Andreas graduate-to-be wearing a white cap and gown, had been using her own smartphone as a mirror, so she could apply a fresh coat of red lipstick.
“I’m just excited that I’m done with high school,” Lozano said.
The newly minted graduate plans to go to Gavilan College before transferring, probably to San Jose State University, she said. 
Manuel Ureno, 17, waited in the same room with leis made out of money looped around his neck. He attended San Benito High School before transferring to San Andreas, where he got caught up on his classes, he said. This spring, he started taking classes at Gavilan College. Ureno’s grandparents, mom, dad, sister and stepsister were in the audience to watch him pick up his diploma.
“I actually graduated early but I wanted to walk for my family,” he said.
Ureno plans to study biological sciences and transfer to California State University, Monterey Bay, he said. After that, he plans to go to medical school, where he will study anesthesiology, pathology or urology, he said.
School administrators taking the stage at the ceremony highlighted the importance persevering through obstacles and focused on graduation as the start of a new chapter.
“You’re a winner because winners don’t quit,” said Mitchell Dabo, the president of the San Benito County Office of Education’s school board.
The students’ speeches focused on thanking the people that got them to graduation, including family, teachers and best friends. Josefina Linares, 17, a student speaker at the ceremony, spent one year at San Andreas and had heard it was the school where bad kids went, she said. But she praised the school’s more one-on-one instruction model.
As the graduates marched out, Nancy Ortiz, who will be going to San Andreas in the fall, looked for her sister, Stephanie, in the sunny courtyard. Stephanie Ortiz held not only a high school diploma, but a $100 scholarship. It was one of three that staff awarded to students in the graduating class.
“I honestly didn’t think I was going to make it,” Stephanie told the Free Lance.
At San Andreas, she finished high school early, in just three years, she said. Ortiz plans to attend Gavilan College and to study criminal justice.
Check back at for more photos of the graduation. 

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