Every so often, teachers, counselors, bus drivers and principals at a school know when they have "the class," that group of students who are at once "troublemakers" but undeniable "sweethearts."
"The class" of 23 seniors said farewell to high school during an emotional graduation ceremony Saturday (May 26) in Peñasco, the mountain community in southern Taos County.
"You were one of the most challenging groups of seventh graders in quite a while," said Marina López, their former teacher who became their high school principal. "I was more than a little worried about getting you here today," she said.
But López went on to talk about their successes, strengths and unique personalities.
The adults on stage each offered a litany of life advice but the graduates had their own summations of the momentous rite of passage. Salutatorian Lucian Sahd talked about the inherent excitement and scariness of the day, while valedictorian Estrella Gonzalez spoke about her classmates' willingness to show up and "put a hand out during the difficult times."
She said it from experience. When Gonzalez's father passed away unexpectedly right before the start of her junior year, her friends would come over to just sit with her. Two of them put together all her binders and notebooks for each subject. Teachers made safe spaces for the hard days.
Despite losing her parent, Gonzalez excelled with the support of her friends and community, and will go to the University of New Mexico this fall to begin a joint bachelor's and medical degree program.
The class' collective relationship was obvious throughout the ceremony, but especially during a moment of silence to remember Gilbert Mascareñas, a student who passed away last year.
For more on the Peñasco High School class of 2018 graduation, see the May 31 edition of The Taos News.