Photo: Class of 2017 graduates celebrates their milestone achievement.
The seniors at ECHS seemed to be saying goodbye to family rather than a school.
“Be bold, be innovative, be excellent and always be misfits because misfits stand out,” encouraged Danni Washington, an activist, marine conservationist, science-filmmaker and on-camera personality. Washington was the 2017 keynote speaker at Environmental Charter High School Lawndale graduation at El Camino College Marsee Auditorium. This venue has seen its share of high school graduations, but none quite like this one. Instead of traditional commencement clichés, the seniors at ECHS seemed to be saying goodbye to family rather than a school.
These young men and women entered high school as teenagers, but they emerged from ECHS as pro-active, creative and bold young adults. Class of 2012 alumni speaker Pamela Gonzalez was witty, wise and eloquent as she empathized with the graduates’ feelings of accomplishment, excitement, and fear and provided practical insights. In congratulating her fellow new alumni she said, “To say that you’re thriving against the odds is an understatement.” This is fitting, as over 80% of this year’s ECHS graduating seniors will be the first in their families to attend college. A light-hearted and useful warning accompanied Gonzalez’s congratulations, “When it comes to social media, the rules of 5th amendment do not apply,” reminding her peers to “think twice about double-tapping, liking or retweeting.” She imparted one last piece of wisdom: “Never forget the community that helped you get to this stage today.”
Video: Class of 2012 alumni speaker, Pamela Gonzalez
ECHS named two valedictorians, Jennifer Bañuelos and Selena Melgoza. Bañuelos spoke passionately to her classmates of their future, “…remember that you come from a home that taught you to be proud, and a high school that showed you that you need to be a pioneer for change – if that means standing alone in your Biochemistry class then so be it.”
In co-valedictorian, Selena Melgoza’s words, “If there’s one thing we are all great at it is fighting for what we feel is right. Fighting for social injustices, environmental issues, to rid false representation of Muslims in the media, fighting for immigrants rights, and to bump our grades from 89 percents to 90’s. This is what I love about our class. How eager we are to make change…” Melgoza shared about what she and her classmates learned individually at ECHS, and also highlighted valuable lessons in cooperation and collaboration with each other. Students at ECHS attend outdoor overnight camping trips for experiential learning about the environment. About their class field trip and as a metaphor for other challenges Melgoza reminded them, “we learned how to support each other through the dark.”
A variety of superlative awards were given to outstanding seniors, including:
Community Service – Frances Gealon
Environmental Hero – Vanesa Iniguez and Andrew Nguyen
Best Senior Thesis Paper – Johana Leanos
Woodcraft Rangers J. Calvin Mueller Memorial Scholarship – Carolyn Lam
ReGreen ECHS Campus Ambassador Scholarship – Rickeyna Fields, Ogechi Hubert, Carolyn Lam, Tahj Lakey, and Angel Perez
Photo: Angel Perez accepts his Campus Ambassador Scholarship from ReGreen President, Chad Clark.
Finally, the presentation of diplomas was accompanied by individualized words of affirmation and motivation by teachers and staff. It was beyond inspiring to hear all the kind words the teachers at ECHS had to say about this group of students. The students returned the praise and appreciation:
“To staff and teachers, thank you for making ECHS home. Thank you for empowering us, pushing us, making us laugh, making us cry, and simply making us. Ten years from now when you forget our names, you will still be unforgettable. You will still be known to us as the people who changed our lives.” – ECHS co-valedictorian, Jennifer Bañuelos
ECHS graduates are ready for the world and eager to change it for the better. Watch out world! – Get ready for the bright and bold ECHS Class of 2017!!!
For more on our outstanding ECHS graduates…
Photo Credit: David Montejano Photography