SALEM — As the school year comes to a close, students across the state are celebrating their walk across the stage for graduation.
It is a proud moment for them and their families. It is a remarkable accomplishment.
Jessica Perez is one of the Class of 2019 graduates. She faced many obstacles on her path to graduation, and last Friday, she received her diploma from Woodburn High.
Jessica grew up without a father, and with a mother who was often absent. During her sophomore year, she got a job to help support her family. She used her earnings to pay for groceries, and to use the laundry mat when her mother wouldn’t fix their washing machine. She often had to stay late at school to keep up with her studies, but she did — and she finished that year with a 4.0 GPA.
At the age of 16, Jessica pursued emancipation from her mother. Determined to prove to a judge that she was able to live on her own, she worked not one, not two, but three jobs that summer.
Even with all her responsibilities at home, she still managed to take 5 IB classes her junior year, join the National Honor Society, and begin oil painting.
She has been offered 6 college scholarships, including the “Beat the Odds” scholarship presented by Stand for Children.
Although Jessica says it’s hard to think about the future when she is so busy, she plans to spend a year in Mexico to perfect her Spanish language skills before attending college and pursuing a degree.
The excitement of graduation is also felt by Telah Bailey of Madison High. She says she feels like “a butterfly soaring from my cocoon and ready to take on the world with full force.”
To Telah, her high school experience made her realize that her biggest asset is her voice. “Without that voice I will never be respected like I should be.”
Telah’s emotions about graduation and anticipation for the future are shared by her classmate, Destiny Husted.
Throughout high school, Destiny struggled with trauma at home and had difficulty finding support and healthy coping mechanisms.
However, she found success in school, thanks in large part to her high school teachers. “Once I entered high school, I found teachers that believed in me and showed me how to believe in myself.”
Peter Gillooly also benefited from incredible teachers, who in his words, gave him constant encouragement and support. In high school, Peter transitioned from female to male, and struggled with mental health challenges and social pressures.
“It took me a long time to be able to let my guard down at school…the only reason I was finally able to was (because of) the wonderful teachers I had. They made me feel safe enough at school,” he says.
Peter has been accepted to Concordia University, where he plans to attend in the Fall and follow in the footsteps of his teachers by majoring in education.
So many students graduating this year are giving thanks to the powerful effect teachers have had on their academic success.
Oregon’s teachers are on the front lines when students need help. They are the person they can turn to when they are struggling, and they go to work every day educating the leaders of our future.
The Student Success Act ensures that students and educators have the funding and support they need to succeed. The legislation allocates $1 billion in funding to increase education outcomes for students by: reducing class sizes, providing mental health services, and supporting student programming.
The landmark bill is an investment in Oregon’s future, an investment that benefits us all with a better workforce, more engaged citizens, and a stronger community.