As graduates shared their stories about how they found success, Jereann Bowman High School Principal Nina Zamora reminded the 270 or so graduates on hand for Monday’s commencement about the importance of what they’ve already overcome.
“In just a few precious moments, you will be graduates. It is now your turn to inspire others as you have been inspired,” Zamora said. “But most importantly, do not doubt yourself, your self worth. Have the courage to believe in yourself. Do not compare yourself to anybody but everyday work to be a better version of yourself. You’ve already beat the odds, now it’s time to shatter the glass ceiling.”
The emotional ceremony took place at College of the Canyons’ Cougar Stadium, featuring few dry eyes from its guest speakers.
Founded in 1969, Bowman High is a continuation school for students who did not perform well in the traditional high school setting. Its students have faced adversity in their lives, but typically have triumphed through their tragedies.
The school currently has an enrollment of 500 with a graduation rate of 95%. Nine different scholarships were also delivered during the ceremony, amounting to nearly $8,500, according to district officials.
The first commencement address was given by Chloe De Los Rios, who said she went from having a 1.7 GPA to a 4.0 GPA — excelling in English and economics. De Los Rios said there were points in her life that she saw very few reasons to live.
“For so long, I had this image built up in my head that I would not amount to anything and I had no value in anyone’s life because of the words that people would say to me,” said De Los Rios. “Little did I know Bowman would change all of that and what I feared the most was really what I needed: change.”
Following De Los Rios’ speech, a memorial was held for Richard Ortiz, a teacher at Bowman who made a large impact on the lives he encountered, according to his students. A seat was left vacant for Ortiz in the front row of the graduating class.
The second commencement speech was given by Valerie Sanchez, who said she was not given a fair shot by any high school other than Bowman.
“Truly, there was a sense that no one really cared about the struggling kids. See, I’ve been to multiple schools. I remember a time when I overheard a teacher say, ‘Just let her fail.’
“Up until that point, those schools led me down,” said Sanchez. “Shortly after that, I attended Bowman, where everything was different and lively, unlike any school I’ve experienced before. Bowman (is) a school where students are friendly and you make friends with unique kids who you wouldn’t imagine you’d be friends with.”
The third and final commencement speech was given by Brianna Olmos, whose life took a turn for the worst when her mother and grandfather were hospitalized during the pandemic. Her grandfather would not survive.
“Now all I ever do is for him. It made me stronger and it made me push harder to accomplish everything and more, hoping to make him proud,” Olmos said. “I finally went back to my homeschool for about a month but I was too far behind. I then had the opportunity to come to Bowman and I will never forget the words of (a counselor) when she said, ‘You are a diamond in the rough and we are here to polish you.’”