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116 success stories earn diplomas

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Video from Calla High's graduation.


POSTED May 18, 2013 2:29 a.m.

Manuel Cardenas didn’t think that he was ever going to graduate high school.

It wasn’t in the cards, he thought.

After slacking off through middle school and watching his high school grades slip from the brief reprieve that he gave himself during his first semester at Sierra High, Cardenas just knew that he was bound to disappoint his mother and drastically narrow his prospects for the future.

But then he took the advice of administrator Greg Leland, came to Calla High School, and watched his entire world suddenly change all around him.

And on Friday, he stood at the lectern at Crossroads Grace Community Church and spoke not only as somebody who was graduating high school, but somebody that was doing so early – flourishing in all that Calla gave him during his brief stint there as a student.

“I knew that I was going to be the dropout and the disappointment of my family,” he said. “Now that’s not the case. Thank you Calla for all that you’ve done for me.”

In total, 116 students received their diplomas Friday night from Calla – historically the first Manteca Unified High School to graduate every year.

Former Lindbergh Adult School Principal Howard Holtzman whipped the student body into a frenzy when he announced that he had always been told that the Calla principals that he had worked with in the past that the school had the best graduation, and that he had to “eat crow” and acknowledge that they had all been correct.

It was student speaker Clorissa Troche, however, that summarized the school’s fighting spirit in her brief but descriptive remarks about the time that the students spent on the campus and how much it will end up impacting each of their lives down the road.

Troche called Calla “home of the second chance” and talked openly about the difference in circumstances that brought each of the students to the campus at different points during their educational paths.

Regardless of the reason, she said, the sense of pride that comes with being a graduate is universal regardless of the name of the school printed on the diploma, and considering where most students saw themselves just two years ago, being called a high school graduate in any context can be a miracle in and of itself.

“I’m proud to say that I’m a Calla High School graduate – it’s a sign that I accomplished something,” she said. “Maybe a year or two ago we wouldn’t have thought that this was even possible. Just remember all of the challenges that you overcame on this 12-year educational journey.”

Principal Kathy Crouse thanked her staff – both the faculty and support personnel that help keep the school humming – for another successful year before making her introductory remarks to the students at the start of the ceremony.

The bond that the students shared with their teachers, she said, will never be broken, and nobody will ever be able to take away the fact that they are high school graduates.

“You are each responsible for your future,” Crouse said in her welcome to the students and their families. “Each and every one of you are here tonight and you’re here because of the help of these 13 individuals. You came to Calla uncertain of your future, and I have no doubt that you’ll leave here able to do whatever you set your mind to.

“So let those doors of opportunity swing wide open.”

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