Big results from a small, rural high school like Orosi

Orosi High student body president Juan Manzo led the pledge of allegiance during the June 6 graduation ceremony.
Orosi High student body president Juan Manzo led the pledge of allegiance during the June 6 graduation ceremony.

The numbers are big for the small, rural high school that draws its heavily Latino enrollment from two unincorporated communities.

▪ The Orosi High Class of 2019 will send some of its 212 graduates to big-name schools like UCLA, UC Davis and Fresno State.

▪ Two students – Jéssica López and Esbeidy Mercado – are Dell Scholars, which means a $20,000 scholarship, laptop and additional help with their college studies.

▪ Nineteen graduates, or about one of every nine – earned valedictorian honors. Another five were salutatorians.

▪ It’s graduation rate is 98 percent, among the tops in Tulare County.

Orosi High valedictorian Marissa Quezada, who graduated with a 4.28 grade point average, walks onto the field during June 6 graduation ceremony. JUAN ESPARZA LOERA

“People may underestimate us, but we’re just as smart as anyone else,” said Marissa Quezada, the top valedictorian with a 4.28 grade point average.

Quezada, who wants to be a doctor, will major in biological sciences at UC Davis. She is the daughter of Jesús and Julia Quezada. Her father, a farmworker, is currently not working due to a leg injury.

“They always told me education is the most important,” said Quezada, who captained her school soccer team (which included an undefeated regular season and Valley championship her junior year). “They figure that since they didn’t (get an education), at least I do it.”

An older brother, Jesús, is majoring in civil engineering at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. She has a younger brother who has yet to reach high school.

Quezada, who also served as student body vice president, takes pride in growing up in Orosi.

“It makes me really proud to be from here,” she said.

Cutler-Orosi Joint Unified School District Superintendent Yolanda Valdez encouraged the Orosi High Class of 2019 to "go out and conquer the world!" JUAN ESPARZA LOERA

In her speech, she told her classmates: “Although we come from a small community, we are each still able to leave our mark in this world. We are able to choose who we are and who we want to be in life.”

López, the Dell Scholar, also comes from a farmworker family. She is the oldest of four children.

López will attend Fresno Pacific and major in social work.

“I always knew I wanted to help people,” said López.I want to be hands-on and communicate with other people, especially children.”

López, who was also involved in FFA, was proud of her work with Adelante Latina, a pregnancy prevention program that evolved into a girls’ youth group.

“It’s inspiring to know you help someone else,” said López.

A moment of silence was held for Noelia Manzo, who died Jan. 9, 2017, during the Orosi High graduation ceremony on June 6. JUAN ESPARZA LOERA

Principal Roberto Vaca, who began his tenure five years ago, took time to ask for a moment of silence in memory of Noelia Manzo, who died in January 2017 and would have graduated along with her relative, senior class president Juan Manzo.

“Although you are no longer here with us, you deserve to be here just as much as we do,” said Manzo in his speech. A class portrait of Noelia sat on two seats near the graduates and faced the audience.

“To many of us, you were a caring friend, a great student, and a loving family member,” said Manzo.

Class historian Mónica Quevedo summed up the class of 2019’s success in sports and academics, but reminded her classmates to remember Cutler-Orosi.

“Don’t ever forget these two, small campesino towns where we learned how to worked hard for what we got and that things in life are not granted to us,” said Quevedo. “Never forget the humble beginnings that we all came from because they are something to be proud of.”

Orosi High School

Date: June 6, 2019

Where: George Millhorn Stadium

Graduates: 212

Latino valedictorians: Marissa Quezada, Yudit Garibay, Mónica Quevedo, Brian García, Daniela Rusiles Gaitán, Erica Ambriz, Lesley Estrada, Joshua Talingo García, Isamar Rodríguez, Esperanza López, Diego Macareno, Abril Cerpas, Vanessa Renta, Jamilet Cornejo, Emmanuel Moreno, Sinoel García, Natalie Ortega, Natalie Rodríguez, Susana Pérez

Latino salutatorians: Kimberly Guerra, SayDee Alcalá, Esbeidy Mercado, Daniel Ramírez, Jennifer Damaso

Principal’s words: Fifth-year principal Roberto Vaca, attributing the quote to Albert Einstein: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

Student’s words: Class historian Mónica Quevedo: “Disclaimer: Just like every piece of work I did in high school, I did this (speech) the last minute. Hah! I’m just kidding, sort of ...”

Highlight: As the students walked to their seats on the football field, they were given congratulatory high-fives by their instructors. Also, the entire ceremony was shown on the large screen.