For every student that graduates, there is always a supportive mentor by their side.
It could be a teacher, coach, counselor or nurse.
At Hillsborough County Public Schools, we call them graduation champions. A person looking out for the best interest of the student.
Senior at Durant High School, Lysbeth Paz-Lopez, happens to have a handful of them.
It was last school year that Paz-Lopez found out she was pregnant.
“I was freaking out because I was like ‘am I going to be able to graduate?’” said Paz-Lopez.
She felt like she was drowning. With doctor’s appointments and moving to a different location, school no longer was a priority.
Paz-Lopez transferred from Strawberry Crest to Durant High School. She was welcomed with open arms.
“I was surprised by the support because I didn’t think they really cared,” she said. “Some schools don’t even care about your situation but here at Durant they go above and beyond.”
Durant High School's Migrant Advocate Jorge Salmeron is one of Lysbeth’s graduation champions.
He strives to make sure all his migrant students have a bright future. Last school year, 100% of the students in the program graduated.
“It makes me feel relieved and I’m thankful they’ve kept pushing me and cared so much,” said Paz-Lopez.
Salmeron knew it was going to be a challenge to make sure Lysbeth graduated but he was all in.
“When I was looking at her grades in the beginning, I noticed some were failing,” said Salmeron. “So, we looked into how to help her and that’s how she was offered an early graduation option.”
He helped her enroll in the program so she could receive her diploma by December since her due date is slowly approaching.
Salmeron also made sure to get Lysbeth a take home laptop so she could finish her work.
“She’s about 75% on track to finish her course and graduate on time and we’re on her to make sure we meet her deadlines,” he said.
Back in 1996, Salmeron used to walk the halls of Durant High School. Born in Mexico, he knows the struggles migrant students face because he has been through a similar journey.
But there are others who have been Lysbeth’s cheerleaders.
Salmeron has been working closely with the school’s guidance department along with credit recovery and her success coach to switch her schedule around so she could meet her deadlines.
“All we’re trying to do is show them we care and show them support like in Lsybeth’s case there is 6 people cheering her on to tell her she can do it,” said Salmeron.
Graduation was once an unattainable goal for Lysbeth, but thanks to her Graduation Champions she will be receiving her diploma and striving towards a brighter future.
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