Most of Wendover High’s graduating class of 2020 has been together since preschool, making for a tight-knit group of 24 that received its high school diplomas during a virtual graduation ceremony last week.
The ceremony, much of which was conducted in both English and Spanish, focused primarily on the bonds that began to take shape in Nick Tangaro’s Head Start class when the graduates were just four years old. Those bonds were tested when their senior year was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Never take anything in your life for granted,” graduate Yanae Marquez said in her opening remarks, which were echoed in Spanish by Estefania Duran. “Love your classmates, and whenever you have the opportunity to hang out and chill with your class, cherish it because you never know what can happen. We would have never thought our senior year would be robbed from us the way it was, so cherish every day and every moment that you have in the school, because once you lose everything, you will want it all back.”
Co-salutatorian Alana Henderson said there is a lot she will miss about her time growing up in Wendover, but she is excited for the next phase of her life – one that includes running track at Southwest Oregon College.
“When we planned our senior skip day, I don’t think this is what we had in mind,” Henderson joked. “But, in any case, nobody has had a senior skip day, month or months like the class of 2020.
“I will miss my fellow graduates,” she added. “I will miss our school. I’ll miss some great times, but I will not miss the chance to take on the challenge that comes with tomorrow. Let’s do it. Let’s show ourselves as champions. Let the starting gun sound and let the race begin.”
McKenna Castagno, WHS’ other salutatorian, expressed her optimism for the future, as well as her pride in where she and her fellow graduates come from.
“I know that as we continue our lives, we won’t stop growing and trying to be the best we can be,” Castagno said. “Cherish the memories and friendships from our time spent here. Take pride in how far you have come and have faith in how far you can go.”
In her remarks, given both in English and Spanish, class valedictorian Citlaly Lujan admired how her classmates have overcome the unique set of challenges that have been thrown in front of them.
“I know that our class will get through this because we are all very strong,” Lujan said. “I know the enormous amount of time, work and dedication every single one of us put in to get to this point. After this, we’re all taking our individual route in life, but just know if we ever feel alone, we have friends and classmates who will be there for us for a lifetime.”
Wendover High history teacher Chad Grossman, who has taught the class of 2020 for the past two years, said it is up to the graduates to make the most of what the world has to offer in the years to come.
“You are graduating in a century that is still in its infancy, at a time in history when our world is dealing with enormous challenges, but at a time when opportunities created by those challenges have never been greater,” he said.
Tangaro had a unique perspective on the graduates, and shared memories of each of them. Not only did he teach them in preschool, but they also represented his first class as a third-grade teacher at Anna Smith Elementary School. That year, he taught them Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” dance for Halloween.
Three years later, they were his first sixth-grade class, when he used music and motivational movie clips to help them get through state testing. They went on to be the first eighth-grade math class he taught at Wendover High, as they doubled their math proficiency rate from the previous year on the state tests.
Following a slideshow that included childhood pictures of the graduates, WHS principal Heather Castagno read each graduate’s name as they walked up to take their diploma off a table that had been set up before the turning of the tassel that marked their graduation from high school.