Itzel Del Rio participated in Anzar High School's drive-thru procession for the Class of 2021 in Downtown San Juan Bautista on June 11. Photo: Juan Reyes
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Itzel Del Rio spent the entire time halfway out of the moonroof of an Audi SUV as she rode down Third Street in San Juan Bautista, waving to guests who were cheering for Anzar High School’s Class of 2021.  

She was part of at least 50 graduates who participated in Friday afternoon’s mini-parade that started at San Juan Elementary School and ended at San Juan Bautista Library on Second Street. 

She said she truly appreciated that the community of San Juan Bautista was there to congratulate her along with the rest of the graduates. 

Del Rio mentioned that graduating still felt unreal because the school year went by quickly and all of the craziness that came along with the Covid-19 pandemic, including distance learning and shelter-at-home orders.

“I still feel like a junior because I only went back to school for a month and now I’m graduating,” she said.

Del Rio said it wasn’t the grand traditional ceremony but it was still nice to have the chance to walk across a small stage, especially because everything they’ve been doing at school has been digital.

“At least our graduation isn’t through Zoom,” she said.

Del Rio will attend UC Davis in the fall and plans to major in sociology with a focus on a pre-law track. 

Del Rio, who transferred this year from Santa Clara County to Anzar High, said she struggled mentally and emotionally with the transition. She mentioned that social isolation is not healthy because there’s no stimulation from other people. 

She really had to push herself and made the initiative to make friends over Zoom, which was also difficult for her. 

“It really was a struggle,” she said. “But we all pushed through and here we are now, walking to graduate.”

Del Rio ran for class president and introduced herself to as many classmates as possible as a way to get to know them. 

Slightly ahead of Del Rio was Carlos Garcia, who was cruising in the backseat of a white Ford pickup truck, blasting some music and on the lookout for his family. 

He was bombarded by family members with Silly String and a couple of confetti cannon poppers shortly before arriving in front of the stage. Garcia said he was a little embarrassed but he’ll get over it and there was nothing he could do when they were just as equally excited as him. 

“I’m feeling great, happy and excited to finally be able to move on to the next chapter in my life,” he said 

Garcia, who will attend San Jose State University in the fall, said it was nice they were able to celebrate their graduation in some kind of form. But, like some of the other graduates, he wishes that it could’ve been something bigger.

Alan Cruz was overwhelmed with emotions after walking away one last time as a student at Aznar. 

“I feel good but at the same time it’s kind of sad because I won’t see my friends as I used to,” he said. “But it’s a good experience because now I’m going to be able to move on and do whatever I want to do in my life.”

Cruz said what he’ll miss the most is joking around with his classmates, the laughs and making those memories on campus or through Zoom. He added that it felt extra special to have them and his family around to share another moment with him because it’s the same group that was there from start to finish. 

“I’m grateful for the opportunity that I got today,” he said.  

Cruz is currently looking at becoming a firefighter in Santa Clara County. He plans to get in shape and is already looking at the first step to get there. 

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