At Vincent, since her sophomore year, Mariela would get up early each school morning, usually around 5:30 a.m. and after a hasty breakfast, join the long lines of school children and workers who cross the international border each day.
After college in Mexicali, Mariela is setting her sights on post-graduate study in Europe and a career in cyber-engineering.
As Mariela joined her class for a group photo in front of the altar, nervous mothers and grandmothers primped and primed their children. High up in the choir loft Sister Lilia Barba led fellow teaching nuns in playing and singing modern day spiritual songs.
For school counselor Dennis Jacobelli this was the 24th graduation at Vincent he had been involved with.
"Students change, the challenges change every year, personalities change … I'd like to think even I've changed a little bit," he says with a grin.
"It's a joy being the students' counselor; you see them get into college, see them succeed. One or two of them this year are going into business and the rest of them are going on to college," Jacobelli said with pride.
Like Mariela, another student has visions of life, work and study beyond the Imperial Valley.
"I'm going to major in political science and my long-term goal is a job in a U.S. embassy abroad," says 17-year-old Rafael Reyes of Calexico.
When asked what motivated him to choose such a career path, the young graduate looked at the questioner steadfastly and said simply, "I want to try to make a difference. That's what we've always been taught here at Vincent; we're taught to make a difference in other people's lives and the world. I want to serve my country."
>>Staff Writer Jennifer Ralton-Smith can be reached at 337-3442 or firstname.lastname@example.org