The Long Beach Unified School District’s high schools have been honoring their graduating seniors in a variety of ways, including by handing out yard signs to let students’ neighborhoods know that they’re moving on. That has left out some seniors who’ve moved away during the COVID-19 campus shutdowns, since online learning can occur anywhere there’s an internet connection.
Cabrillo High principal Cheryl Cornejo wanted to include as many students as she could, so she hand-delivered a yard sign to Emily Ildefonso-Ramos, a graduating Cabrillo senior who’s moved to San Rafael, 400 miles north.
“A few of our students have moved locally and a few of them have moved to Mexico, but some are even further away,” said Cornejo. “Emily happened to be in San Rafael and my daughter is in San Francisco, so I said, ‘Let me take that over to her.’”
Ildefonso-Ramos had been living with her aunt in Long Beach while she finished school, but moved up north to live with her mother and siblings while she finished her high school classes.
“I’m feeling accomplished for graduating high school,” said Ildefonso-Ramos. “When (Cornejo) said she was coming up I was shocked–she’s really coming all the way up here? I’ve got the yard sign up in my window where everyone can see it from our apartment building.”
Ildefonso-Ramos said she’s planning on going to Santa Rosa Junior College in the Bay Area this Fall to continue her education. She said it’s been difficult adjusting to not seeing her friends or teachers anymore.
“I’m still sad about it,” she said. “I just wanted a regular senior year, with all my friends. I wanted to graduate and all those experiences–this will be my big memory, instead. This happened for a reason and so we didn’t get those things–but I get to be with my mom and my family.”
Cornejo said the visit was therapeutic for her and she was excited to see the yard sign go up in Ildefonso-Ramos’ apartment window.
“They were all so excited,” she said. “We had a chance to talk about her plans and we got to take some pictures.”
Cornejo said that she and her staff’s hearts have been breaking for their seniors.
“We’re all so disappointed we can’t do an in-person graduation ceremony,” she said. “We all look forward to it. The graduates look forward to it but the staff does too after the four years they’ve been with us–we feel like parents, we want to celebrate with them.”
This year has been an especially poignant one for Cornejo because she’s one of a handful of LBUSD principals who learned last week that she’ll be moving schools for next school year. Cornejo, who’s been the principal at Cabrillo for the last five years, will be moving to become principal at the California Academy of Math and Sciences campus at Cal State Dominguez Hills.
“The whole graduation is a little more personal for me because I’m leaving,” she said. “The kids may not be aware and I’m not going to make it about me–but the videos we’re taping will be the last time I get to talk to a Cabrillo graduation. I think the school has come a long way in the last few years, we’ve always had great things here we’re just trying to get the world out and help raise school pride.”