By Ruth Campbell
When some ECISD seniors walk across the stage and graduate later this month, they will be the first in their families to do so.
Their goals and destinations vary, but all are proud they’ve reached this milestone. Graduation for George H.W. Bush New Tech Odessa and Permian High School are May 25 and OHS is May 26. NTO’s commencement is at 2 p.m. at the Wagner Noel Performing Arts Center and Permian is at 8:30 p.m. May 25 and OHS is at 8:30 p.m. May 26. The PHS and OHS commencements will be at Ratliff Stadium.
There are about 168 first-generation graduates this year. Six of them are Odessa High School seniors Jacob Salgado and Mayte Delgado, both 18, Permian High School seniors Danay Artalejo, 19, and 18-year-old Jennifer Medina and from George H.W. Bush New Tech Odessa Jaylyn Guzman and Christian Lamadrid, both 18.
Salgado plans to start working immediately at All-American Chevrolet in auto body and collision repairs, having worked on cars with his stepfather since he was a youngster.
“It’s good for me and then good for my parents because it will give my sisters a good role model, I suppose. I hope so,” Salgado said.
One of his sisters will be a freshman at OHS and the other is going into sixth grade.
“It’s been a difficult ladder to climb. I think junior and senior year is probably the hardest I’ve ever experienced. There’re a lot more projects and tests and you tend to take more notes that need to be learned and memorized,” Salgado said.
He noted that earning his diploma has helped him get his job at All-American. Salgado said he’s been “dead set” on going to work there since his stepdad told him about it.
Salgado said his parents didn’t graduate from high school, but his father obtained a GED, which is when he started at All-American after owning his own business.
Right now, Salgado is counting the days until commencement. He’s worked his way through the last part of high school at Texas Road House as a dishwasher, rib grill cook and making steaks and salads. Previously, he worked at fast-food restaurants.
He said some cousins who didn’t graduate thought he wouldn’t either, but Salgado was determined.
“The good thing will be graduation. That will be the good thing — walking the stage, seeing my family, all my friends watching me,” he said.
Although he started off impatiently, Salgado said he takes satisfaction from a job well done.
“… In the beginning I was like, ‘Why am I doing this? It’s so boring.’ Now I’m patient about it. Now I can wait for the paint to dry,” he said.
Delgado is taking dual credit classes at Odessa College and plans to become a special education teacher. She will graduate Saturday with a level 1 certificate in child development from OC. She is going to OC for her basics and then hopes to transfer to Texas Tech University.
Delgado said she has wanted to teach special education students since middle school.
“They’re not going to reach what they’re trying to because it’s hard for them, (but) helping them out is the best that could be. It’s just awesome,” Delgado said.
The oldest of five, she wants to be an example to her younger siblings and show them that if she can do it, they can, too.
She said her mother was always encouraging her to finish high school and telling her there were better things waiting for her. Her teachers and friends also supported her.
“Everything that she didn’t have, she wanted me to have, so she kept on pushing me. My parents were there always — right or wrong, good or bad they were always there, especially my mom,” Delgado said.
She’s a little nervous about graduating from high school and going to OC in the fall.
“(I’m) not ready, but I’ll be ready so hopefully that goes good. I’m a little bit scared because college … it’s a big step,” Delgado said.
Like Salgado, Delgado worked her way through the last part of high school at fast-food restaurants and there were times she wanted to quit because school was so pressing.
“But I could handle myself because life’s not going to be easy,” she said.
She couldn’t participate in extracurricular activities.
“I decided to stick to work, study, work, study. That was my life,” Delgado said.
Medina, from PHS, plans to start at OC in the fall and go into teaching, like Delgado. Artalejo is less certain of her plans.
Artalejo said graduating feels “pretty good.” She added that this being her last year gave her the push she needed to make it through.
“Honestly, because I’m accomplishing something I never thought I would,” she said.
One of seven siblings, Artalejo’s brother died in a car accident, and she said she wants to set an example for her surviving siblings.
Medina said her motivation was her son who is almost 2 years old and soon-to-be born daughter. She added that she’s trying to accomplish something for her children, herself and her family.
“Every morning I would look at my son and I would be like, ‘I have to do it just for you’ and my little girl that’s on the way, too. I have an older brother, but he dropped out so I wanted to show my mom that I could do it so she could at least, she would have a child that’s going to graduate from high school,” Medina said.
Medina said she had her son when she was a sophomore and it was difficult.
“Thankfully, I’m about to graduate. I’m trying to push myself, but it was a little struggle. I’m going to have two at a young age. But I guess God sends you something for a reason because I know He has something big, not for me but for them …,” Medina said.
Guzman and Lamadrid are happy and sad to be graduating.
Guzman said she has been accepted to Our Lady of the Lake in San Antonio and was offered a job from her internship with the Small Business Development Center. She plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in business in finance and her master’s in international business.
She added that her father never had the opportunities that she has.
“He’s from Mexico, and unfortunately, my father doesn’t know how to read and write, so me actually coming home and telling my father that I’m going to graduate this year and walking the stage is such an honor and it’s bringing honor to our family. The last time I’ve probably seen my dad smile was my 15th birthday — my Quinceanera, so seeing my dad really proud of me that I’m going to accomplish such great things brings tears to my eyes,” Guzman said.
She said her older sister earned her GED.
The concept of graduating and moving on to college feels kind of surreal.
“The last couple of months have been really emotional because I grew up in this school, basically and they’ve seen me shed tears. They’ve helped me through a lot,” Guzman said.
As a freshman, she remembers being kind of big mouthed, but she’s calmed down now.
“I know how to communicate much better. … I know when’s the right time (and) when’s not the right time so I know that the school’s helped me with professionalism and stuff like that and really prepared me for college,” Guzman said.
Lamadrid said he feels really happy about being the first one in his family to graduate from high school. He’s enrolled in welding at Odessa College and plans to continue with diesel mechanics, incorporate them together, ultimately opening his own business.
As the oldest son, Lamadrid said he hopes to be a role model for his younger brother and sister.
Both said they are kind of nervous about heading off to college.
“… I think I’m nervous as well because I know probably college is not going to be the same as New Tech where it’s like a family kind of feeling, where we can just knock on any teacher’s door and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got a problem.’ I feel like over there, it’s going to be more you’re on your own; figure it out.
Like their peers, both have worked and gone to school at the same time.
Lamadrid works for someone his father knows who has a business and Guzman has worked several places. Now that she’s a senior, she’s focusing on more on school.
“For a while, attendance was a problem because of my job so I had to cut back on that,” she said.