"I questioned everything, even my faith," Saida said.
High academic achievement and intellectual thought can come into conflict with faith. But after the questions, she said, her faith became stronger so it was beneficial.
Saida said she is going to stay in the Valley for a year and complete her general education requirements at Imperial Valley College. Then she will go to the University of California, San Diego to pursue a degree in psychology.
Graduating senior David Creiglow, 18, said he loved his time at Central, even though he was there for only two years.
David previously lived in Brazil, where he was home-schooled. While he didn't attend public schools in Brazil he said there is no comparison between the educational systems.
"The school system in the U.S. is 100 percent better than in Brazil," he said. "We're really privileged."
In Brazil there are a lot of kids who drop out of school to work. Attendance is not mandatory as it is in this country, he said.
David was commissioner of records for the Associated Student Body and an outside linebacker for Central's football team. He plans to go to IVC and become a paramedic.
Top 28 graduating senior Adriana V. Gonzalez, 18, has met the senior year challenges and will soon reap the benefits.
Adriana gets up at 4 a.m. every weekday to work with her mother, Caroline, in the cafeteria at Hedrick Elementary School before she goes to school herself.
Adriana's mother is the main wage-earner of the family. Her father is unemployed but does odd jobs and housework to help.
After school Adriana works on homework and helps her 17-year-old brother, Arnulfo, with his homework. Arnulfo is a special education, learning disabled student at Central.
Arnulfo doesn't sit still.
"It requires a lot of patience to work with him. You have to say something three, four or five times before he understands," she said.
Adriana has been working with her mother for no pay, as community service, since she was in seventh grade. She also tutored children in first to fourth grade as community service.
She doesn't get any academic credit for the community service, just a few awards and a feeling of accomplishment.
And the hard work has paid off.
Adriana has an all-expenses-paid scholarship to University of California, Riverside, where she wants to pursue a degree in business administration.
"I'm very proud of her. I used to nag and nag her to study but she didn't see it paying off. I told her it would and then we got the news from Riverside," Caroline Gonzalez said.
Caroline said the family will miss Adriana but Riverside is not too far away.
"Arnulfo's going to miss her a lot. He doesn't understand that she's going away," Caroline said. "But it will be worth it."
>> Staff Writer Laura Mitchell can be reached at 337-3452 or firstname.lastname@example.org