Five PRIDE High School graduates shared pieces of their lives with a near capacity audience at the PRIDE commencement ceremony held Monday night.
Twenty-seven graduates dressed in robes of green and crimson marched into the Sunnyside High School auditorium to receive their diploma, something that is a major accomplishment for many of them, according to Principal Gary Babcock. A total of 31 seniors graduated from PRIDE this spring.
Babcock said each has a story of what brought them to PRIDE and each has overcome their own obstacles to make it to graduation.
Some have faced family illness, death, the birth of children and taking on jobs to help with responsibilities at home, according to Babcock.
Amelia Munoz was one of the five class speakers at the commencement ceremony.
As a junior Munoz started taking classes at PRIDE.
"PRIDE is not some big fancy school, but it has what most students need, teachers who care," said Munoz. "To me, it's more than a school, it's a second home."
She said that while attending PRIDE she learned that she can do anything she puts her mind to and can always strive to do better.
"The staff members are the roots of this school," said Munoz. "I know if it wasn't for them I would have given up long ago."
She closed saying that for herself and her fellow classmates it was hard for most of them to reach graduation and because of that she encouraged her classmates to work harder, whether they go to college, art school or technical school, or follow a different path.
Graduate Monica Pacheco said that before she started attending PRIDE she thought it was a school established for students who were always in trouble.
Before attending classes at PRIDE, Pacheco said that she had never wanted to go to school, but always wanted to go skipping with her friends.
When she made the decision to attend PRIDE, Pacheco said it was the best decision she ever made.
"I don't know where I would be tonight if I hadn't attended PRIDE," she said.
Pacheco said she plans to attend Columbia Basin Community College in the fall to pursue a degree in medical science. She plans to transfer to the University of Washington to finish out her four-year degree. Pacheco has plans to study to be a pediatrician.
The oldest of five boys in his family, Rafael Larios also graduated last night.
He said he found that PRIDE fit into his schedule with trying to go to work and school at the same time.
"PRIDE isn't a place for failures or bad students," he said. "It's a place for second chances."
"Today is one of the most exciting days of my life," said Mireya Torres, a PRIDE graduate speaking at Monday night's commencement ceremony.
"I didn't think I would ever graduate," she said.
Torres said she faced many obstacles on her road to graduation. At age 19, she found herself the single mother of two boys with only the help of her grandparents available.
"PRIDE offered me a schedule I could work around," said Torres.
As graduates, Torres said, it's not the end, but the beginning of a new life as adults.
"If we can make it anyone can," she said. "Believe in yourself and never give up."
Julie Reyes, the final speaker at the graduation ceremony, lost her mother shortly after she started attending PRIDE.
"When I first came to PRIDE I was a junior and pregnant with my son Elisha," said Reyes.
"My biggest obstacle was when my mom was diagnosed with cancer and only lived three months," she said.
With her father absent from the home, Reyes relied on the family she found in the staff of PRIDE for support.
"They provided me with a psychologist to help me with my loss," she said.
She encouraged her classmates to never give up.
"This is just a start. We have a long way to go," she added.