HARLINGEN — Seniors from Harlingen’s oldest and newest high schools crossed over into a new world yesterday.
At Boggus Stadium, Harlingen High School’s Class of 2018 began what one senior described as “incredibly different paths.”
The Harlingen School of Health Professions, which opened in the fall of 2014, graduated its first class, its Legacy Class of about 75 seniors.
For many, they were graduating with a head start on their future careers in the medical field.
HARLINGEN HIGH SCHOOL
Reynaldo Lopez Sr. smiled into the evening sun as he strolled toward his son’s high school graduation.
“Oh, that’s the greatest thing ever, really special,” he said as he talked about Reynaldo Jr.’s graduation from Harlingen High School at Boggus Stadium last night.
Almost 550 seniors graduated, heading off to their separate futures.
Many had something powerful to say about this more powerful day.
“High school is a crucial point in our lives where we discover not what we’re meant to be but who we’re meant to be,” said Valedictorian Nathan Ramon. “It is a time where character’s revealed, and you realize what’s most important to you.”
Salutatorian Brandi Cantu reflected on the common bond that connects all graduates from HHS.
“Once a Cardinal, always a Cardinal,” she said. “However, our lives, without a doubt will take us all on incredibly different paths. Whatever you believe in, do it. These paths may cross and diverge, but don’t be fooled. Everyone has the power to be successful.”
Reynaldo Lopez Jr.’s family always believed in his power to succeed, but it bore special mention the challenges he faced and why it was such a special moment for everyone.
Reynaldo Sr. turned to his son Andrew Lopez, 25, as they walked in and said, “Tell him why it’s so special.”
“My little brother had Asperger’s when he started school,” Andrew said. “We were worried. Kids can be cruel.”
But that’s not what happened. His gentle manner and keen intelligence in some subjects warmed his fellow students and earned him an accepted place among them. Just this year, he was crowned homecoming king.
Asperger’s is now part of the broader range of Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Leslie Silva was also looking forward to her future.
“It’s a great achievement,” said Leslie, 17, as she held her red gown before the ceremony.
“I took dual classes and that was a challenge,” she said. “I’m going to Texas A&M to be a veterinarian.”
Her friend Aaron Zapata, 18, concurred he’d faced his own challenges on the road to graduation.
“The biggest challenge was being in band and keeping up with my different classes,” said Aaron, who played baritone sax.
He has yet to decide whether to pursue music in college or some other field of study.
“I’m going to get my basics at TSTC and then decide,” he said.
He was definitely a man with a plan.
HARLINGEN SCHOOL OF HEALTH PROFESSIONS
They did it.
The first senior class from HSHP graduated yesterday, walking across a stage and into a bright future.
“It’s a big honor, and it comes with a lot of responsibility,” said Sylvia Sanchez, one of about 75 seniors graduating in grand fashion at the HCISD Performing Arts Center.
They all sensed the significance of the moment.
“The first class of the Harlingen School of Health Professions has opened doors and possibilities for others and set the standard,” said Valedictorian Arely Gonzalez.
Attending HSHP presented many challenges, Arely said.
“We all made a choice to attend HSHP,” she said. “For some, it was to attend a medical high school in order to explore medical careers and be better prepared for a post-secondary degree in the medical field.”
Still others, she said, just wanted to challenge themselves or had other reasons for attending HSHP. Whatever the reason, parents and students said the school prepared them well.
Nelda Zuniga came to see her niece Madison San Miguel graduate.
“Her major is journalism and she’s going to NYU (New York University),” she said. “I think she’s going to be well prepared. There were a lot of different colleges that came, and she got to meet many people she would have gotten to meet. She’ll know how to make friends with people from different cultures.”
Aurelio and Olga Turrubiates were looking forward to seeing their son Sean receive his diploma after years of diligent study.
“I am excited and very proud,” said Aurelio Turrubiates. “I think the biggest challenge would be time management. He took a lot of AP courses. Those are very challenging classes.”
He had an especially difficult time deciding which college to attend. He finally chose University of Texas at Austin where he’ll study engineering.
Sean’s mother Olga Turrubiates said the school prepared him well for the rigors of college coursework.
“They’re taught to be very independent, very structured,” she said.
Many students had a head start on their careers.
“I already have a pharmacy certification,” said Daniel Villarreal, 18. “I plan to go to TSTC to be a pharmacist.”
And so HSHP’s Legacy Class enters the future, leading as an example for the graduates who will follow.