By Kelly Hartog
Cheered on by their friends and family, 15 proud adult students took the stage at FIELD’s EPIC de Cesar High School graduation in Coachella on June 14, where they were congratulated by keynote speaker, Indio Mayor, Oscar Ortiz.
The two graduate student speakers–Sonia Araceli Torres Felix and Jay Oliver Sese–spoke passionately about all the students’ hard-fought journeys to achieve their well-deserved high school diplomas.
“We have achieved a goal that has cost us twice as much because now we have more responsibilities than when we were teenagers and we could finish without so many obstacles,” said Torres Felix. “This is an achievement of which you can be proud, because it is no small thing. It was your time, effort and dedication to get here.”
Sese, who said he waited 30 years to get his diploma, told his fellow graduates, “It’s really nice to have an opportunity to improve yourself and have a chance to be productive and self-sufficient in society and to be part of something great.”
One of the oldest graduates was 67-year-old Teresa De Jesus Sagastume Portillo, who doesn’t drive and who struggled to get transportation to and from her classes, but persevered nonetheless.
Sagastume Portillo embodies what FIELD’S EPIC program is all about, said FIELD’s Regional Operations Supervisor Monika Galvez-Lua. “Lots of our students either had either a harsh childhood and/or they dropped out of high school,” she said, adding it’s why it was so moving, before Sese began his speech, he shouted, “We did it!” He then spoke about how he can finally move on to studying to become a nurse.
“I think [our program] is a second opportunity for students who didn’t graduate,” Galvez-Lua added. “Because they either had to help their parents raise their brothers and sisters, or they just had to work. It’s why this is such a great achievement.”
After all their hard work, and the graduation celebration, Torres Felix sent her fellow graduates out into the world with words of encouragement. “I hope that everything that comes in your life comes full of blessings,” she said, “and that God will accompany you and guide you with wisdom to make a positive difference in the eyes of all those around you.”