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From homeless to diploma
Calla grad beats the odds to graduate
Calla High senior Kenneth Bragg gets in some swing time before heading into ceremonies at the Place of Refuge. - photo by HIME ROMERO
The road to a high school diploma didn’t come easy for Andrew Ramos.

An impoverished childhood ended with him living in a homeless shelter in South Stockton.  He was left to find his own way in one of the town’s worst neighborhoods amidst thieves, felons, and drug addicts.

But he was determined to become more than just a statistic or one of the people he saw on the streets on a daily basis.

Friday evening, Ramos was one of more than 100 students who walked across the stage to receive his diploma from Calla High School at Manteca’s First Assembly of God Church – indulging his fellow graduates with his story of determination and perseverance in overcoming some of life’s biggest hurdles.

“My school was my home – it was my three meals a day,” Ramos said. “It never gave up on me, and I never gave up on it.”

Principal Lindsay Munoz welcomed all of the students for what will be his last Calla High graduation after 15 years at the helm of the high school that caters to students who face obstacles that makes their success in the classroom difficult.

When he started, Munoz said that he watched just 32 students receive their diplomas when the school year concluded in June. That number has grown to more than 100, and with the support of the Board of Education – who decided not to close to the school when looking for ways to save money to offset the budget shortfall – that number could be on the rise in coming years.

“Students – you have one hour left in your high school careers,” Munoz said to the students who filled the first three rows of the packed auditorium at The Place of Refuge – causing them to erupt into a frenzy of applause. “Cherish it, enjoy it, and remember it.”

Receiving subject matter awards Friday night were Corey Bishop (P.E.), Raymond Gomes (art), Brandon Grimes (social studies), Zubair Khan (science), Juan Jimenez (math), James O’Garey (staff award), and Ramos (staff award.)

Scholarship recipients were: Jimenez ($250 from Manteca Federated Women, $400 from Jeff Gonzales Memorial Scholarship, $500 from Manteca Morning Rotary, $500 from Manteca Educators Association, and $500 from the Sunrise Kiwanis); Ramos ($250 from Manteca Federated Women, $500 from Manteca Morning Rotary, and $1,000 Manteca Noon Rotary); Yaquiline Zarate ($500 from Manteca Federated Women); Jessica Ceja ($500 from Sunrise Kiwanis); Zubair Khan (Manteca Lions Club); Jose Ramirez ($500 from Manteca Noon Rotary.)