Thirteen young men and women were recognized for their hard work and dedication in becoming the class of 2013 for the Grand Island Ombudsman Center.
Linda Sanders, the center’s director, noted that many of the graduates faced special challenges in earning their high school diplomas. She noted that several students worked 40 to 50 hours per week at the JBS packing plant yet still put in the time needed to earn their degree.
Sanders said students earn their diplomas not only because of their own hard work, but also because of the support of their parents, siblings, other family members and significant others in their lives.
Each graduate was called up to receive their diploma one-by-one, with fellow graduates and audience members giving each person a hearty round of applause. After each person received his or her diploma from Sanders, they shook hands with Superintendent Rob Winter.
True to his word before that part of the ceremony commenced, Winter made sure to keep a grip on each graduate’s hand long enough to ensure that everyone who wanted to snap a photo of the big moment was able to do so.
The only change in that routine was when Sanders called both Ombudsman graduate Mainor Tercero and Stephanie Morales to the front. Sanders noted that Morales had played an especially significant role in helping Tercero earn his diploma, rousting him from bed each morning so he would attend classes.
After the ceremony, Morales said Tercero worked until midnight each evening at JBS, which made it difficult for him to feel like hopping out of bed in the morning and attending Ombudsman classes until it was nearly time for him to go to work at the plant again.
Sanders said that Morales sometimes would also stay around to ensure that Tercero would spend all his scheduled time at the Ombudsman center.
After Tercero received his diploma from Sanders, he got down on bended knee, reached under his graduation robe and took a small box out of his pocket, opening it to reveal an engagement ring. He then proposed marriage to Morales.
She answered with a yes, then received her own diploma.
Ombudsman graduates Ricky Caballero, Lyssa Lanzendorf, Nyakim Wal and Lalo Guardiola all made brief commencement remarks before the diplomas were presented. One common theme from all four speakers was thanking parents and friends for their support in helping them and the other Ombudsman students make it to graduation.
Wal said she was attracted to the program after she discovered that earning a degree was not a matter of putting in a specified about of “seat time” by attending class for so many hours and so many days, but rather showing proficiency over the material, with students learning at their own pace.
She thanked those in the audience for their support and for coming to witness the graduation.
Caballero finished his remarks by wishing a hearty congratulations to every one of his classmates for earning their diploma. Guardiola concluded his remarks with a sentiment likely felt by every one of the Ombudsman graduates on Tuesday: “We made it!”
During his remarks, Winter also hit the theme of how much students owed to their parents, friends and others for helping them.
While earning a diploma is a great accomplishment, Winter said, he also told students that the most significant aspect of earning a high school degree is that it created new opportunities for them that would not have existed otherwise.
Those opportunities exist whether students are planning on going directly into the work force, joining the U.S. military or continuing their education, he said.
Sanders said one student, Mario Alvarado, could not be at Tuesday afternoon’s Ombudsman graduation because he had to drive to Omaha to deal with an immigration issue.
Although they have already overcome obstacles to reach graduation day, Sanders said, she noted that graduates may face new challenges that they will need to overcome to reach their goals. With that in mind, Sanders read a poem called, “Don’t You Quit,” which said people often cannot tell how close they are to reaching a goal or achieving success because of the struggles needed to get there.
That theme was sounded several times, including with these lines: “Don’t give up though the pace seems slow, You may succeed with another blow.
“(Success) might be near when it seems afar; So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit. It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.”