Four Coachella Valley students invited to virtual White House graduation ceremony

Four Coachella Valley students invited to virtual White House graduation ceremony

Taylor Martinez

Vice President of the United States Kamala Harris, spoke to 2021 high school graduates during a special on CNN Sunday.

“Hello and congratulations to the Class of 2021,” said Harris, “I am so proud of each and everyone of you.”

Nearly 300 students across the County had the opportunity to participate in the event. Among those invited to virtual attend her speech were four graduating seniors from the Coachella Valley area. Ariana Castaneda-Gutierrez from Indio High School, Elizabeth Esteban from Desert Mirage High School, Omar Bahena from Desert Hot Springs High School and Emma Hernandez from Beaumont High School received their invites from Congressman Dr. Raul Ruiz’s office.

“When I found out I was so shocked because it was an invitation to see Kamala Harris,” said Castaneda-Gutierrez.

“I was really excited,” said Esteban, “I ran to tell my parents I was invited.”

“I was shocked, this is a huge opportunity,” said Bahena.

“They just kind of said oh we’d like you to be part of this graduation project with Congressman Raul Ruiz and it never occurred to me that it would be involving the Vice President,” said Hernandez.

The students were displayed in the background of the Vice President as the special was broadcast nationally.

Majority of the students logged onto the event from the comfort of their homes, but Bahena went to his school campus to share the moment with his teachers and other students.

“This celebration, I know, was not only for me, but for other students as well who have gone through a horrendous obstacles and hindrances throughout the year and these four years of high school.” said Bahena, “So it’s an applause to them and a salute to them as well.”

Being addressed by the Vice President not only came as an exciting moment for these grads, but her words made lasting impressions.

“I took notes,” said Esteban, “One thing that stood out to me is when she said Do not be limited in your view on of who you are and what you can be in the future. I sometimes limit myself on what I’m capable of. But I know that if I believe in myself and truly love myself, I can accomplish anything that I dream.”

“Something else that really stood out to me was how appreciative and how proud she was of the class of 2021,” said Castaneda-Gutierrez, “I was just astonished because I have so many adults in my life who think Virtual Learning is easy, but in some households, it’s really not. So I think she truly understands how tough it is for everyone during the during these times especially, she just made me feel very empowered and proud to be a student.”

The special also marked the beginning of “graduation season” across the Coachella Valley with all 2021 high school graduations happening across this week and next.

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