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Capcrice Ison
 Our students graduate after a wide range of educational and personal experiences, and they embark on a wide variety of paths once they have their diplomas. To honor the Class of 2023, we chose four students to interview about their feelings upon graduating, their plans for this summer and beyond, and how the pandemic shaped their high school experience. 

Encinal High School: Vinny Camarillo

Vinny Camarillo
Salutatorian and Student Board of Education Member
How does it feel to be graduating?
It feels surreal and I don’t this it has hit me that I graduated already. I think it’s because I’ve been at my school for 7 years, it doesn’t feel like I’m leaving just yet.
What are your plans for after graduation?
 I plan on attending Cornell University majoring in Healthcare Policy and Biology in the fall!
You were a freshman when the pandemic hit. How did that affect your time in high school?
I feel like it affected how I retained knowledge. When we got out of our COVID year, I essentially had to relearn everything that was taught the previous year which made it so much more difficult. On top of that, they say Junior year is the hardest and so I struggled more than I think I needed to. 
What achievement or achievements are you especially proud of?
I’m very proud of becoming ASB Co-President along with my close friend Macie Laguardia and we were able to organize so many different events and activities that we used to do in previous years. I’m also proud of being apart of the group that created the Community Assessment Response and Engagement (CARE) team that partners with our SBHCs. 
What advice would you give to freshman (or new student) at your school?
Learn to be alone sometimes as these moments are when you truly find out who you are and what you’re capable of achieving. 
[Note: A previous version of this article mistakenly identified Vinny as the EHS valedictorian. We apologize for that error. The EHS valedictorian was Kyrene Angelica Tigas; Vinny was a salutatorian.]

ASTI: Mabel Minney

Mabel Minney
How does it feel to be graduating?
It feels unreal but exciting. I can't believe it's been 4 years since I started. I'm starting to feel I've accomplished something and I'm ready for what's next. 
What are your plans for after graduation?
 I'm taking a gap year and working as a community organizer for the MLK Jr. Freedom Center. I'm taking this year to get myself grounded, build some good habits, and work for the community. After that I'll pursue a degree at a 4-year college. Right now I'm thinking something in anthropology or linguistics.
You were a freshman when the pandemic hit. How did that affect your time in high school?
It was really hard to manage during the pandemic. My grades went down, and I lost a lot of the care I would have put into my classes. For my school coming back from COVID was an adjustment, and we had to work hard to build back the community we lost. 
What achievement or achievements are you especially proud of?
I graduated with my AA degree about two weeks before receiving my high school diploma. I decided to go for my AA instead of basic requirements in my junior year so I had to catch up on credit. I'm proud I kept up with my classes and got my degree.
What advice would you give to a freshman at your school?
Make friends with people in different grades. We have a small school that can be a great community. I remember when I had to figure out college classes we were online and I didn't have the older students to help me. You should reach out to upperclassmen for help and advice, I'm sure they would love it. Take advantage of the size of our school and take care of our community.

Island High School: Caprice Ison

Capcrice Ison
Introductory Note from Educational Equity & Family Engagement Coordinator Shanti Croom: 
Caprice Ison is a joyful, determined, and wise person who has managed to care for her grandparents, work part-time, and graduate from Island High School.
Her high school story started with challenges. She did not attend high school for a year. “I struggled with a lack of motivation and found myself surrounded by the wrong crowd,” she says. However, she decided to make a change for the better by distancing herself from negativity, self reflecting, and putting effort towards her academic and personal goals.
Caprice successfully developed a new mindset and attributes that to self-motivation and transferring to different schools. This allowed her to make friends with students from diverse backgrounds and various perspectives on life.
Caprice is inspired by her mom and grandparents because they have always believed in her and would give her “life lesson” lectures that have guided her throughout her journey.
Caprice is a voice of resilience to those that are facing adversity. She has spoken publicly about her educational experiences at AUSD ceremonies and assemblies to help motivate her peers and the younger generation.
How does it feel to be a graduate?
 I take pride in what I have accomplished and the person I have become. Graduating proved that I can overcome obstacles and am capable of great things. 
What are your plans for after graduation? 
I am going to attend college at Western Oregon University and pursue a career as an ultrasound technician, a field that combines my passion for healthcare and technology. The decision of this path was not made lightly. I have witnessed firsthand the profound impact that healthcare professionals can have on individuals and their communities. The ability to contribute to the well-being of others is a calling that I hold close to my heart. Through my studies and training, I aim to acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to make a meaningful difference in the lives of patients.
You were a freshman when the pandemic hit. How did that affect your time in high school?
There have been ups and downs throughout my high school years, and each one has tested my resilience and determination. I have faced academic challenges, personal struggles, and moments of doubt and uncertainty. But through it all, I have persevered. I learned to pick myself up after each setback and to keep pushing forward towards my goals.
What achievement or achievements are you especially proud of? Graduating, public speaking, and learning that success is not just about getting good grades or achieving a certain status, but also about the strength of our character and the values we hold dear.
What advice would you give to a new student at your school?
My advice is to embrace every opportunity, believe in your abilities, and remember that your potential knows no bounds. High school is a time of growth, exploration, and self-discovery.
It’s important to build good study habits, time management skills, and communication skills. Students should focus on building relationships with teachers, friends, and becoming comfortable asking for help.
In addition, it’s important to get rid of the “I don’t care attitude.”  I was once that student that didn’t care, but I realized you must care to improve your outcome.
Students and people should know It’s never too late to turn your life around. I encourage people to self-evaluate, keep a positive mindset, be true to themselves, and have faith or hope.

Alameda High School: Paul Gontard

AHS - Paul Gontard
How does it feel to be graduating?
Proverbially lifting my head from my school books at long last, I am both exhilarated by the new horizon of college and in bittersweet reflection on this whirlwind high school experience. 
What are your plans for after graduation?
I will be attending Stanford University, and I look forward to pursuing my academic passions across the natural sciences and humanities. 
You were a freshman when the pandemic hit. How did that affect your time in high school?
In retrospect, the academic deprivation of distance learning thrust me further into my self-guided studies, cementing my understanding that I am most joyful when learning. 
Missing the depth of an in-person experience further motivated me to seize all the opportunities available upon returning to physical school. By the same token, I also became more deeply involved in affinity and club spaces– leaning into rebuilding and restructuring after the long pause. 
What achievement or achievements are you especially proud of?
I am firstly pleased to have been able to give back to my community across AUSD through my leadership of the AUSD LGBTQ+ Roundtable, AHS GSA, and other advocacy initiatives. Although I am honored to have received academic distinctions, I am most glad to have been able to make a positive impact on peers and the greater community through service and activism. 
What advice would you give to a freshman (or new student) at your school?
Pursue your interests earnestly, whatever they may be. Engage with the courses and organizations that appeal to you, making the most of the resources at hand. Connect with your instructors and show them due gratitude. All the while, don’t forget what you can contribute to maintain a thriving school environment, whether it be a courteous presence in the packed hallways, an energetic performance in an assembly, or curious discourse in the classroom.