Paola Vasquez says ‘parents were my inspiration'

June 15, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

For 357 Southwest High School students, Thursday evening's commencement ceremony opened the door to their futures and to adulthood.

Students, faculty, staff and well-wishers gathered on the Eagles' football field to bid farewell to each other.

Senior class adviser Loyal Frazier reminisced with the class.

"It seems like just yesterday you were freshmen," he said. "You remember: the girls were taller than the boys and their voices were deeper."

He praised the Class of 2001 for sending 98 students to four-year colleges, the highest number ever for the school, including 24 to the University of California, San Diego; 67 percent to two-year colleges; 2 percent to the military; 85 percent achieved a grade-point average of 3.5 or better; and the first Latina vale


One of those students headed to the UC system, though not UCSD, is Paola Vásquez, who finished Southwest with a 4.14 GPA. She participated in soccer, cross-country, the advanced placement program, associated student body and the migrant club. The 18-year-old is headed to UCLA to major in political science with minors in business and psychology.


She praised her parents for their influence in her education.

"My parents played a major role in my education," she said. "They motivated me, they pushed me, they were my inspiration."

Vásquez also lauded three of the many teachers who helped her through her school days, including Susan Gruenberg, advanced placement biology; Catherine Drew, 10th and 12th grade Gifted and Talented Education English program; and Craig Lyon, associated student body director.

"All of them were motivation to me," Vásquez said. "They helped me along the way. They always pushed me. All of my teachers did, but these three were there for me, too, when I had problems."

Lyon said he's known Vásquez for about three years.

"She's a go-getter," he said. "She's an unbelievable young lady who goes out of her way to make things right. If it means taking away her personal time she won't even hesitate. She's just amazing. I have really enjoyed getting to know her over the past two years. She's part of my activities leadership council and she's been wonderful.

"She's a great student," he said. "She excels in the classroom. She's an amazing girl."

Gruenberg, who's known Vásquez's family for years, chimed in with similar affection.

"Their mom is the most amazing woman that I've ever seen in this Valley; the best mom that ever existed," Gruenberg said. "(Paola) is a top student.. She gets top grades. She's extremely well-rounded. She's involved in sports and (associated student body) and committed to her future."

Just before the ceremony Vásquez said her graduation is a big dream come true.

"I'm very excited, but at the same time I'm very sad at leaving my friends and all the wonderful memories I had with them," Vásquez said. "I know that wherever I am and wherever my friends may be that we'll always be together. Our memories will always remain."

Meanwhile, Frazier asked the graduating students to remember four things:

l He said what we do with the one life we have is up to us. "Seize the day and make every moment count."

l Many big decisions will have to be made. "Please don't take these decisions lightly."

l Make the time tonight to hug your parents, but make it a real hug, for all they sacrificed for you. "You can never repay them. Never."

l Know that Southwest will always be their home, and that they should visit during next year's homecoming.

"You will always be special in my heart," Frazier said.

Other commencement speakers included Gruenberg, Drew, class valedictorian Jessica Rodriguez and class salutatorian William "Billy" Middleton."

Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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