Saturday, June 11, 2016

Message to Matt Garcia Graduates: Strive for Excellence

Matt Garcia Career and College Academy Craig Dixson hugs friends after the school's graduation ceremony at the Fairfield City Council Chambers, Wednesday. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)


FAIRFIELD — The Matt Garcia Career and College Academy graduated its first class Wednesday. The school was formerly known as the Matt Garcia Learning Center.

Five teens, dressed in black caps and gowns, received their diplomas.

“You not only represent Fairfield-Suisun Unified (School District),” Superintendent Kris Corey told the students, “you represent Fairfield’s finest because you are Matt Garcia graduates.”

Corey shared a brief history about Garcia, one of the youngest people ever elected to public office. He was killed in a case of mistaken identity in 2008.

“Keeping the Dream Alive” is a theme of the foundation that bears Garcia’s name.

Corey spoke of researching what it means to have a dream about graduation.

“Your dream is a reality,” she told the students.

Commencement speaker Ariday Fuentes told her fellow graduates they started school as children and were leaving as adults. She noted each will follow their own path now but should hold their heads high and keep their hearts full of hope.

“Strive for excellence in every task, large of small,” she said. “The future is truly in our hands. Let’s make the most of it.”

Principal Jacqueline Kearns held back a few tears after the graduates received their diplomas.

“I am so proud of each of you,” she said. “You have gone through tremendous struggles to be here.”

She also shared some words of wisdom for teachers that included everything from “smile” to “little things make a big difference.”

Graduate Paola Silva-Ramirez came to the Matt Garcia Career and College Academy having earned all F’s in high school. She found an environment to thrive in.

“The people care,” she said of the staff and students. “They get to know you.”

Holding her diploma, a gift bag, balloons and congratulation signs, Silva-Ramirez said she was looking forward to more learning, possibly becoming an ultrasound technician.

“This day means the world to me,” she said. “It’s opened new doors and opportunities. I know if I’ve made it this far, I can make it further.”

Craig Dixson, who called himself a “super senior,” said graduation was best summed up in one word: Accomplishment.

“I’ve been in (high) school five years,” he said. “I never gave up and now it’s done.”

He plans to work in the summer and head off to the Job Corps in the fall.

“That’s the beginner’s plan,” he said.

Todd and Kristy Neal watched as their son Bret Neal finished high school. He’s the youngest of four children.

“I’m so proud of him,” Todd Neal said.

“Matt Garcia gave him the opportunity,” Kristy Neal said. “He went from a 1.6 (grade-point average) to a 4.0.”

The Matt Garcia Career and College Academy serves sixth through 12th grades and focuses on project-based learning.

Article Source: Daily Republic 

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