Class of 2020: ‘We were built for this’
High school and college graduates share messages of hope and resiliency amid uncertain times.
For the class of 2020, graduating in the middle of a pandemic has meant the loss of cherished graduation ceremonies and uncertainty about the future. But for many high school and college graduates, the global crisis has also brought renewed determination to make a difference.
Nia Clark feels empowered about beginning her career in social work after growing up in the foster care system. Landon Marchant wants to be the LGBTQ role model he didn’t have growing up. Brianna Nargiso sees how low-income communities have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, and her decision to go into education policy is affirmed.
“COVID-19 caused the world to stop for a reality check,” Nargiso said. For all the 2020 graduates “who are feeling down because it seems like we were put through countless obstacles … I promise, we were built for this.”
Meet 11 graduates who received scholarships with help from the Wells Fargo Foundation and who are committed to being part of a stronger and more resilient society following the pandemic.
Brianna Nargiso spent most of the last semester of her Howard University education under a shelter-in-place order, yet feels she and the rest of the class of 2020 were “built for this.” The pandemic has also strengthened her resolve to advocate for equity in education.
Landon Marchant graduated high school during the Great Recession, and has now graduated from Williams College during the recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Despite the obstacles, Marchant, a Point Foundation scholar, remains passionate about his future in business and becoming the role model he wished he had had as an LGBTQ youth.
Nia Clark grew up in the foster care system, and after many stops and starts, finally earned her degree in social work this year from the California State University, Los Angeles. The coronavirus pandemic robbed her of the graduation she’d always envisioned. Despite the setback, she’s determined to make a difference by continuing her work in the welfare system as an advocate for children who grew up like she did, without parents.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, University of Texas at Austin senior Marla Zarate lost her part-time job. Since then, the scholarship she received from Hispanic Scholarship Fund has helped her stay afloat. She mourns what she and other members of the class of 2020 missed out on because of the pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic created closures and shut downs almost everywhere, and created unique challenges for the class of 2020. For Namita Kadel, a graduate of the University of Houston-Downtown, the pandemic thwarted a summer work opportunity and is complicating her job search.
Nina De Angelo
Shelter-in-place changes to high school instruction didn’t deter Nina De Angelo. She embraced the situation as a completely new way to learn, and she is looking forward to her freshman year at Catholic University — regardless of whatever modifications may be made to accommodate the continued threat of infection.
Justin and Mathew Jimenez
Twins Justin and Mathew Jimenez expected to spend their senior year of high school bonding with friends and peers, but the shelter-in-place orders of the COVID-19 pandemic encouraged them to bond with their family instead. Despite the change in plans, they intend to bring the positivity they clung to throughout the pandemic to their college experiences at the University of Southern California and University of California, Berkeley, respectively.
The speed with which normal life became anything but was a shock to high school senior Griselda Chavez, who had looked forward to her graduation from Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe Springs, California before COVID-19 hit. She says her experience with COVID-19 has strengthened her resolve to pursue her dream of becoming a lawyer and advocating for communities of color.
Class of 2020 high school graduate Michael Chacon credits teachers and parents for helping him and other students finish their studies in very uncertain circumstances. Looking toward the future, he worries about the security of his parents’ employment and the safety of his siblings in the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.
Giselle Quiver entered college the same time her daughter entered kindergarten. Despite raising her daughter on her own and commuting 3.5 hours every weekend to work 12-hour shifts in a hospital, she graduated Eastern New Mexico University. COVID-19 robbed her of a traditional graduation and forced her to become an unofficial 3rd grade teacher to her daughter while completing her senior year.
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