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Pushing through pandemic challenges, Las Cruces seniors prepare for weekend graduation

6P story about Joanna Perez
5p story about RGPI Students

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico - On Thursday, 40 seniors from Rio Grande Preparatory Institute were rehearsing for the real thing happening this weekend. At the Field of Dreams in Las Cruces, Rio Grande and 5 other high schools will be reaching the major milestone in one's life - their high school diploma.

ABC-7 spoke to several RGPI seniors about their struggles of being in high school during a worldwide pandemic. From traditional school methods to going virtual, and back, the battles were the same for many of the students.

Many students at RGPI are there because they needed to retrieve credits that they were falling behind on. Most were falling behind due to the transition from in-person to virtual learning, and the struggle of staying on top of schoolwork while dealing with a multitude of battles, such as poor health, stressful family conditions, financial issues, or whatever it may be.

Serena Infante fought through the pandemic but fell an entire semester behind. Now, she will be graduating this weekend. "Coming back to Rio really gave me that push to finish high school in general, and not get my GED, and go through with everything and to still go to college in the fall at NMSU," she shared.

After struggling with attending high school from home, McKenna Saragosa has now soared to the top 10 of her class. She told ABC-7, "my whole high school career has been pretty rough. I came to this school for credit recovery because I was failing at the other school I was attending beforehand. This school has really helped a lot; the principal is very nice, the teachers and staff [are too]."

Keegun Keesling comes from a tough background but has big plans for his future. First was the ransomware scandal that impacted all of the Las Cruces Public School District's computers. Once that wrapped up, a more challenging opponent was- "Covid! And that just sucked for an entire year. We still wanted school, so we still needed to do virtual, but it was kind of difficult because some students couldn't fit it into their schedule, some kids got sick."

He continued to share how the pandemic impacted kids across the city: "it made a lot of kid's grades drop almost to a point of where they couldn't fix it, but RGPI actually gave us the chance to fix our grades because it's a credit recovery school." Keegun has hopes for an internship at Spaceport America this summer and is looking at going to college for "biomechanical engineering, biochemistry and mechanical engineering to start off with, and I might minor in culinary arts and law," he shared. You got this Keegun!

ABC-7 had the opportunity to meet Joanna Perez, who will be walking across the stage to get her high school diploma from Mayfield HS on Saturday. She has dealt with anxiety and depression since a young age, and it only got worse once she reached high school.

"The first years of high school I went through a pretty tough relationship, and that really also skyrocketed my anxiety and depression," Perez shared. Then, the pandemic hit and sent students to online learning.

"Being isolated, and staying home, and not being able to see my friends or teachers, or being able to socialize with other people- oh my gosh that was really the worst! That really made my anxiety and depression I think the worst it's ever been, being by myself," she admitted.  With help from her parents and working with a therapist, Perez was able to make it through.

"They've given me everything so I've been able to stay afloat,"..."I'm super proud of myself for being able to overcome and graduate at the top of my class."

ABC-7 congratulates all of the seniors graduating this summer- it's not an easy task, and it certainly wasn't easy with all of the added difficulties through the pandemic. BUT, you made it through, and that's what matters! Keep up the hard work!

Article Topic Follows: News

Katie Frazier

Katie Frazier is an ABC-7 meteorologist and reporter.

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