High school graduation is right around the corner for students.
This year will be special for one local high school, Tranquillity High.
Nearly every student qualifies for a free lunch and while their income may be low their grades are high.
In fact, Wednesday was the first-ever College Signing Day. It was revealed that the vast majority are going to college with 96% of the graduating class set to go on to get a higher education.
On Wednesday evening, students bound for college were given a huge pat on the back inside the gym at Tranquillity High School. The messages were all meant to inspire the crowd of high school seniors. Most of them were sporting their brand new college gear.
“I was the first one in my family to graduate 8th grade, let alone college. I’d never thought I’d make it,” said Principal, Vincent Gonzalez. “I challenge you to take the risk like I did, tigers.”
Like Gonzalez, also a Tranquillity High alum, some students are breaking barriers.
“I’m pretty proud of myself,” said Carlos Morales who was accepted to University of California, Santa Barbara. “My mom, she motivated me all the way and I’m the first one to actually graduate high school and be the first one to go to college too.”
11 seniors will graduate with an Associate of Arts Degree from West Hills Community College in Coalinga before graduating from high school.
One of those students is Rodrigo Cortez. But he says he wasn’t always college bound.
“I was under the impression that I wasn’t smart and I wouldn’t make it in anything. A whole year passed by and I believed that,” Cortez said.
Cortez says a teacher called him aside his sophmore year.
“He signed me up for one class and that one class changed my life,” he explained.
He enrolled in the dual enrollment program. With a lot of late nights, he got ahead. He’ll be studying nursing at Fresno State in the Fall.
The teacher that helped him get to the next level was Espi Sandoval. He’s the head of the dual enrollment program at the school.
“We want to end the circle of poverty,” Sandoval said. “Education is the key and that’s what we tell all these kids.”
The school says 97% of its students qualify for free and reduced lunch. Despite this, the district says the graduation rates are soaring along with the pursuit of higher education.
“It’s pretty phenomenal,” said Superintendent Martin Macias.
Golden Plains Unified School District currently has 40 8th graders that are enrolled in college classes.