Sanchez-Moreno said Jessie had a tough time growing up, although no one interviewed wanted to go into detail about her troubles for publication.
"We all love her so much," Sanchez-Moreno said.
Jacklin Huerta, an English teacher, agreed with Sanchez-Moreno.
"(Jessie) has taught me so many things," Huerta said. "What she's been through I have never had to suffer."
Huerta said Jessie is an excellent example of what a person can do to overcome adversity and all odds.
"It's been a lesson for me because I see her come to school every day with a smile on her face," Huerta said. "I see her as a very dear friend and the little sister I never had."
Jessie was a student of Huerta's in her junior year and Huerta's aide this year.
Huerta said she hopes Jessie will return to Southwest and visit her classes to tell others what she overcame.
"We're all very proud of her," Huerta said, adding such is especially the case with Jessie enlisting in the Army at a time this nation is at war.
The event was under clear skies and mild weather as the Southwest class of 2002 shared the spotlight and moved on into life.
Jeffrey Osborne, class valedictorian, said high school prepares one for life, and he has undergone a shift in paradigm as he prepares to go off to college.
"I'm happy to say I'm leaving high school a changed person," he said. "I'm a lot different from the freshman I was."
Alina Sanchez, the salutatorian, quoted Shakespeare's "Hamlet" and Robert Frost.
"Now, tonight, we will take a few steps across the stage and leave it all behind," she said. "Now you are your own person. Are you ready to make the right decisions? Are you ready to be honest with yourself?"
Alina said that after Wednesday night, what one did in high school will no longer matter.
"Just be real, be honest," she said.
The evening's speaker was Scott Fullerton, who teaches government at Southwest. He told a number of humorous stories about his school days and early days as a teacher.
Meanwhile, Jessie said she will miss numerous English teachers, including Carmelle Kuehn, Marilyn Burt and Huerta.
"I'm going to miss my friends, and the teachers because there's always a challenge each day when you walk into a classroom," Jessie said. "The faculty and students are very caring."
Jessie plans on going to college at University of California, San Diego or California State University, Fullerton, and double-major in history and criminal law.
Her last words to her fellow classmates were: "Congratulations to the class of 2002 for a job well done, and thank you to everyone who has stood by me through all my triumphs and pitfalls."
>> Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.