Plough said Erick's goals are similar to those of many of this year's Aurora high grads.
"Many plan to go to junior college or technical schools. Some plan to join the Navy. They all seem to have some plan for themselves after high school."
Plough said, "These are young people who will be able to contribute to our community. Their parents should be extremely proud."
After the ceremony, Aurora parents snapped rolls of film and heaped gifts on the graduates. Some of the young women could barely see past the edge of their mortarboards with all the flowers and balloons they carried.
All total, 39 students graduated from Aurora this year. Some students chose not to walk Thursday because they had been done with classes for some months.
The 24 who did participate heard an address from the superintendent of the Calexico Unified School District, Robert Moreno, who told the graduates half of life is "showing up."
"That's the way it's going to be from now on," he said.
Once the grads show up, Moreno said they need to work hard "at whatever you're doing."
Valedictorian Michealle Benitez followed Moreno at the podium.
"People were saying I was going to cry while I was giving this speech but Mom said she would spank me if I do. I'll do my best. So here I go," she said.
Michealle said she owed her parents everything and she thanked them for supporting her. Later she thanked her teachers for all the lessons they imparted to her.
"I've learned that you have to try very hard to accomplish your goals. Goals don't accomplish themselves," she said.
Michealle finished with nary a tear.
Salutatorian Carlos Gutierrez said he dealt with a lot of problems and obstacles but overcame those roadblocks with the help of his family and friends.
He closed by saying, "I wish everyone luck in achieving their goals. I plan on achieving mine."
After the speeches, Juan Gonzalez, a district substitute teacher, serenaded the graduates. Then everyone watched a video featuring baby pictures of all the graduates.
Earlier in the ceremony, Rowena Carrillo, president of Calexico's Soroptomist International chapter, surprised Michealle when she awarded the valedictorian with a $500 scholarship. Plough said Michealle was one of the students who made the class of 2002 especially special.
"This is an excellent group of seniors who worked very, very diligently. For instance, Michealle was our associated student body president and school board representative.
"She was an exemplary leader for the campus this year," he said.
Plough said of Carlos, "He was the treasurer for the ASB at Aurora for two years and he was one of the students who never even had a discipline referral. He showed great leadership and mentoring for the other kids here."
>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or email@example.com