Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Velasquez Leads Chaparral Class of 2007

By Sondra Murphy

Melanie Velasquez receives her diploma at Chaparral High School's June 14 graduation from principal Marilyn Smith

Of the educational opportunities in Ojai, one school is dedicated to second chances: Chaparral High School. Founded in 1969, the school offers independent study to students who need to replace missing credits, diplomas to adult education students, and alternative course work to teenagers who do not find the schedule of traditional high school to be conducive to their needs. Often, working students use continuation schools in order to earn necessary money while maintaining their studies. Chaparral presented 38 diplomas last Thursday.
Melanie Velasquez is a proud 2007 Chaparral graduate and recipient of a Perseverance Award.
“Melanie has had many obstacles in her life, but has continued to persevere,” said teacher Karen Orser prior to giving the award to Velasquez. The 17-year-old senior attended Nordhoff for a couple of semesters, but transferred to Chaparral because of its flexibility.
“Chap is a better environment for me because I’m an independent-type person. It works better for me to go at my own pace,” said Velasquez. “I finished with two weeks to spare.”
Pacing is important for a person as busy as Velasquez. She attended Chaparral five mornings a week, which helped her have time to work at Sea Fresh Seafood five afternoons a week. She is very involved with her family that includes mother Veronica Cervantes, a 12-year-old sister and 6-year-old brother. Her father, Ron, has a 5-month-old son, as well.
Velasquez received a lot of support, not only from staff at Chaparral, but also from her family and colleagues. “Math is my worst subject, so I had a lot of work to do,” she said. One could often find Velasquez at the Sea Fresh sushi bar crunching the numbers. She said the sushi chef would help her, as well as friends who had strong math skills.
Velasquez appreciated the learning environment at Chaparral. “When you’re there, you just do your work,” she said. While the school places a lot of emphasis on core subjects, it also offers electives to students. “I did take a sign language class and I’ve actually used it,” said Velasquez. She and her manager at Sea Fresh enjoy signing to communicate at work.
Velasquez has enrolled at Ventura College this fall, but is still determining her major. “I have so many different interests, I can’t decide. Everybody tells me that college is where you explore those interests.”
Velasquez said that many people thought she would not finish high school. “Even some of my teachers told me they weren’t sure if I was going to make it,” she said. Chaparral allowed her to prove them wrong. “Aina (Yates) is my favorite,” Velasquez said of the school office manager. “Some people are like, ‘You’re not going to make it’ or ‘Chap isn’t a real school.’ Aina says, ‘Don’t listen to them.’ She motivates us a lot.”
The Chaparral High School Class of 2007 is as follows:
Colton M. Ahlberg, Gabriel Antonio Baca, Shawna Carmen Beltran, Bladimir Bolanos, Chelsea Rene Chapman, Bryce Edward Conahey, J. Andrew Corcuera, Cody Tyler Crook, David J. Davidson, Jennifer Dorenkamp, Danielle Nicole Eldridge, Tyler Bryant Elliott, Olivia Allison Gandy, Lindsay Marie Gilson, Corbin Lee Hames, Travis Caleb Henderson, Amanda Dyan Kelly, Jessica L. Kephart, Alexandria Kathryn Larramendy, Lindsay Maharry, Caitlyn E. Mahon, Tina Nicole Mangum, John Robert “J.R.” McMahan, Kaitlin Maura McMahan, Erin Gynelle Murphy, Chauntel Ann Nelson, Jesus J. Ortiz, Luis Angel Otero, Ryan Paul Peterson, Nickalas Victor Rhine, April Stevens, Alyssa Lavon Varela, Melanie Veronica Velasquez, A.J. White, Lyndsey Ann Williams, Brent Michael Yost, and Irfan M. Zaidi.
During the ceremony, the parents of Weston Herbruck were awarded his diploma posthumously.

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