The economic and mental impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic were hurdles that seniors in Spring Branch ISD (and across the world!) had to overcome. But with the encouragement and reassurance of the district’s summer school staff, students lacking a few credits to graduate in May worked hard this summer to complete the missing classes.
“We had three sessions this summer,” summer school Principal Denis Blais said. “This was a response to our known learning loss opportunities from the year. Our goal was to support Every Child with their unique learning needs.”
The efforts of the staff and students netted 66 new Class of 2021 graduates in Spring Branch ISD.
“I cannot be more proud of the Collective Greatness from all of our in-person and APEX [APEX Educational Solutions] teachers, ‘Save the Seniors’ coordinators, administrative assistants and administrators,” Blais said. “It takes each individual in the program to commit to the success of all of the students who need our collective support.”
The students’ accomplishments mean much more than just a diploma, though. Meet a few summer school graduates whose lives have been changed for the better:
“I want a better life.”
“I am proud of myself,” summer school graduate Eduardo Salgado said. “I never thought I would go that extra mile.”
Salgado had to leave school last year to help pay his family’s household bills when juggling work and school became too much.
“This experience made me realize I don’t want to live like this,” Salgado said. “I want a better life.”
With his high school diploma in hand, he plans to become a certified welder or automotive technician.
“My mom is really proud of me, too,” Salgado said. “I like the smile I gave her on the last day of summer school.”
When asked what advice he would give to his freshman self, he said, “Pay attention to the details and keep going with whatever life hands you.”
Salgado has “huge, huge” appreciation for three Spring Branch ISD staff members who kept him on track by telling him to keep going with his education to be able to get a better job:
- Nelda Zuniga, Dropout Recovery Specialist
- Vickie Herrera, Spanish teacher at Stratford High School who also was a summer school teacher
- Aisha Nuhu, Northbrook High School science teacher
“It means everything to me.”
Another summer school graduate is Armando Lozano-Perez. Family and personal losses were hurdles that interrupted his progress towards a May 2021 graduation.
“I was stuck at home,” Lozano-Perez said. “I wasn’t doing anything. So, I decided to come back and finish [my diploma].
"It means everything to me. You have to have a diploma to work.”
He plans to look for a better job after graduation. Ideally, he would like to teach younger children how to play chess!
Lozano-Perez said he dedicates his diploma to four Stratford High School staff members who helped him make a plan to fulfill his childhood dream of graduating high school:
- Crystal Arrington, counselor
- Avery Hammond, English teacher
- Dulce Rodriguez Mora, grade level specialist
- Vickie Herrera, foreign language department chair and Spanish teacher
“This will really take me places.”
Tristan Emmott-Hernandez is another student who worked hard this summer to finish his high school diploma.
“It feels really great to be done,” Emmott-Hernandez said. “I just had to sit down, focus on it and not be distracted by other things and people.”
The personal attention from teachers and the ability to complete the credits he needed to graduate in a less distracting environment were the keys to Emmott-Hernandez’s success this summer. He credits two summer school teachers in particular who were easy to talk to and explained things well:
- Susan Howard, Northbrook High School social studies and summer school teacher
- Wadey Yaya, Spring Woods High School Spanish and summer school teacher
Emmott-Hernandez plans to continue his post-graduation education by taking a welding course at the Universal Technical Institute.
“My grandfather was a welder and I saw what he could do with that skill,” Emmott-Hernandez said. “This will really take me places.”
A ceremony for the 66 summer school graduates will take place on August 5 at the Spring Branch Education Center. The students, their families and the summer school staff who helped get the graduates to the finish line certainly will be bursting with pride.
Best wishes to all for brighter future, diploma in hand. We are #SBISDProud of you.