Outside the Robert King Center at Pilarcitos High School, the words “Respectful,” “Compassionate” and “Responsible” stand out in bold lettering above the doorway. Each of those qualities was evident in the eight graduating students and their instructors at the Pilarcitos High School fall graduation ceremonies that took place Friday morning.

The ceremony began as typical graduations do, with the students, staff, family and friends taking their seats as “Pomp and Circumstance” came to an end. But Principal Jason Owens revealed that the ceremony’s trajectory, prompted and designed by the graduates, would be different. There would be no long speeches. Instead, there were brief but heartfelt messages from various teachers about each of the graduates, including Sonia Flores, Riley Otto, Cameron Souza, Jonathan Torres, Jonathan Vega, Eduardo Carrillo, Samuel Valle and Al Muirragui.

The teachers shared their profound respect for the serious workload many of the students undertake and how responsible and diligent they’d been. Staff repeatedly pointed out the compassion for one another exhibited by students in the small but intimate class.

Some of these students work full-time jobs or have a child to care for while earning a diploma at the same time. Otto earned his graduation cap while working construction full time, while Torres took 51 credits in one semester and split his time between Half Moon Bay and Madera, in the Central Valley. Pilarcitos teacher Dudley Hughes explained that Torres was a kind soul and dedicated worker.

“This is a schedule that would be too much for most people,” Hughes said. “It would be too much for me. But Jonny made it work.”

As Owens and Cabrillo Unified School District Superintended Sean McPhetridge pointed out, doing all this work to earn a high school diploma is a tremendous accomplishment, and can lead to better employment opportunities in the future.

“This is the end of one chapter of their lives, and the beginning of a brand-new phase for you,” McPhetridge said. “Whatever you’re doing, whether it’s continuing education, going to work or fulfilling your dreams, this is the beginning of something, not the end.”

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