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‘A good, tough class’: Pride, determination show through at Wahluke High School graduation

by CHERYL SCHWEIZER
Staff Writer | June 23, 2021 1:07 AM

MATTAWA — Seniors Victor Perez and Oscar Tlatelpa said they didn’t quite know how to feel as the Wahluke High School class of 2021 left the football stadium at the end of graduation ceremonies Friday.

Perez is a WHS graduate, while Tlatelpa graduated from Sentinel Tech Alternative High School. The two schools had a combined graduation.

Wahluke district students started the school year on a distance learning schedule due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and finished the year in a hybrid schedule. Perez and Tlatelpa said it was a little difficult to describe their emotions.

“I don’t know, to be honest,” Tlatelpa said.

Jose Alvarez said there was a lesson in graduation.

“Never give up,” Alvarez said.

Eric Rangel said graduation was a good feeling. He felt proud of himself and proud for his family.

Brian Rodriguez said he thought he could look back on a job well done.

“It feels great. I feel like I’ve accomplished so much,” Rodriguez said.

Alejandra Herrera said it felt amazing to get to graduation, after everything that happened. Ana Andrade said graduation is actually the first step.

“This is just, like, the beginning,” Andrade said.

“We did it,” said Naida Adame.

The class invited Rex Buck Jr. of the Wanapum tribe to speak, who advised the students to treat each other like brothers and sisters, and to understand and respect the land. The land, he said, is also the people who live on it, and people should learn to live together.

Buck expressed admiration for the class, and for their perseverance during the pandemic.

“A good, tough class,” he said.

Salutatorian Karen Arrellano-Cruz encouraged her classmates, and the younger kids in the audience, to follow their ambitions.

“Dream so big people call you crazy,” she said.

She thanked her parents for the work they did and the sacrifices they made to support her and her brothers and sisters. Her gratitude was echoed by class president Michael Garcia, who praised his mom for her sacrifices for her children. Co-valedictorian Emma Anderson-Johnsen got emotional when thanking her mom for her support.

Co-valedictorian Alonda J. Mendoza also expressed gratitude to her parents, and to her teachers and classmates.

“We didn’t expect our senior year to turn out the way it did,” Mendoza said. “Nevertheless, we endured a challenging year.”

Arellano-Cruz encouraged her classmates to do the best they can at their chosen career, and in their lives.

“You define what success is. Don’t let others define it for you,” Arellano-Cruz said.

More photos from Wahluke High School's graduation may be found here.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at cschweizer@columbiabasinherald.com.