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Aguiar becomes family's first graduate


June 16, 2001|By LAURA MACKENZIE, Staff Writer

BRAWLEY — Josias Aguiar almost flunked second grade because his reading and English skills were low.

Aguiar, 17, became the first high school graduate in his family Friday night as he graduated with Brawley Union High School's class of 2001.

The graduation ceremony was dedicated to the memory of classmates Jeff Thornton and Christopher Baker. The class of 2001 dedicated the commencement to English teacher Dennis Croughan for "all his years of service."

"Tonight we celebrate a tremendous achievement that is not easily earned," said Dina Tucker, senior class counselor, in her address to the students.


She urged the graduates to "let your passions guide you and follow your heart."

Tucker reminded the graduates, "The only way to fail is to quit."

She concluded, "You are our future and I have faith in you."

Salutatorian Robert Fernandez, confessing he had written his speech just that morning, joked, "If procrastination has gotten me this far, why stop now?"

He encouraged his classmates to "make the right choices in the future" and to continue their pursuit of higher education.

"The opportunity is there. It is up to us to take advantage of it," said Fernandez.

Thanking her family and teachers, valedictorian Adriana Romero reminded her classmates that "life is a journey of changes."

"Let's look to the future to meet new challenges," said Romero.

She challenged the graduates to remember each other as they continue through life.

"As of tomorrow, today will be one of the most memorable moments of our lives," said Romero.

Stepping forward to receive his diploma, Aguiar's name was announced to cheers from the crowd.

His father was a migrant worker and Aguiar moved frequently until the third grade, when his mother decided to stay at home so the boys could have some stability.

The family settled permanently in Westmorland.

Aguiar, third in his graduating class with plans of attending Stanford to become a pediatrician, would have failed second grade without the help of one caring individual.

"Mrs. Martin, my landlord, went to my teachers and talked to them about what she could do to help me," said Aguiar.

Edith Martin worked with the boy daily, improving his reading skills and honing his English.

"She assigned me extra homework," he said.

Aguiar continued, "She helped me have higher goals, gave me that push."

Although his family has since moved from her property, Aguiar has kept in touch with the woman who helped him so much.

"She's coming to my graduation," he said.

"A lot of people helped me out. That's the neat thing about Westmorland. It's a small community and you know the people around you," he added.

Though Aguiar will leave his close-knit community to attend Stanford this fall, he plans to return to Westmorland to give back to the community that gave so much to him.

"A group of people influenced my life," he said, naming Martin and former Westmorland educators Anne Mallory and Jesus Perez as a few role models that come to mind.

"There have been others: teachers," he quickly noted, adding, "If I mention one I have to mention them all."

Aguiar wants to be a role model for students from Westmorland and has already spoken to some about what it takes to succeed in high school.

He didn't know about honors classes in high school when he was a freshman; he hopes to be other students' guide "so they don't have to be lost like I was."

"He wants to give back to the community," said Jesus Perez, now director of the Educational Talent Search at Imperial Valley College, a personal friend and mentor to Aguiar.

"He knows he's a role model … he's going to give that special touch, the peer/mentor support that some of these students need," Perez said.

Describing Aguiar as an "exceptional student," Perez said Aguiar "always tries to challenge himself and go the extra mile on anything he can do."

Tucker, who has worked with Aguiar as his class counselor, echoed Perez.

"He always gives 100 percent," said Tucker.

"As a student, you can count on him to be responsible and you know he's going to come through," she said.

Tucker added, "Being from a migrant family, he didn't receive a lot of things other people receive, but he did everything he could to compensate for it. He didn't use it as an excuse."

Aguiar has been active in high school athletics, a member of the cross country team and high school clubs, starting a community service club, Interact, this year.

He participated in two summer sessions at colleges, one at University California, Los Angeles and one at Stanford.

"He's always talked about colleges," said Perez, who answered Aguiar's questions about UCLA during field trips.

"His vision for higher-level education came from early on. It came from his parents, the idea that he's going on to college," said Perez.

He described Aguiar's family as "very supportive."

Tucker said, "He has a very strong family, very supportive. His parents are wanting an education for their children."

Perez said, "One of his biggest role models is his mom, who is a student at IVC."

Perez continued, "This is a young man who is going to make it big because he's very determined."

Staff Writer Laura MacKenzie can be reached at 337-3442.

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