Mountain View: ‘Struggle Develops Your Strength’

Mountain View: ‘Struggle Develops Your Strength’

Mountain View grads share stories of perseverance.

From left are Jalissa Chavarria, Karla Hernandez, grad Sara Galindo, Susan Aguilar and Sara’s mom, Susan Vilchez.

From left are Jalissa Chavarria, Karla Hernandez, grad Sara Galindo, Susan Aguilar and Sara’s mom, Susan Vilchez. Photo by Bonnie Hobbs.

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Mountain View High is a school full of heart, and it’s openly on display at every graduation. Teachers, counselors and administrators go above and beyond for their students, and the students, themselves, have each other’s backs.

The school’s spring commencement was Tuesday, June 21, at Centreville High. And after Principal Gary Morris and the two student speakers shared their personal stories, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

“June graduates, you’ve finally made it,” said Morris. “Today we celebrate 20 years of seeing students to and through graduation, and it’s an exciting milestone.”

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http://www.centre-v…">Three seniors were recognized during the graduation ceremony.

Two decades ago, he said, he decided to take his talents to Fairfax County “to work with the brightest and the best in the 10th-largest school district in the country. I was coming to establish my roots, and I was scared.

“But at Mountain View, I’ve become part of a family that put my journey to shame. Some of you made your journey when you were half my age, with no place to live and no employment. Some of you traveled 1,400 and 1,500 miles — and you did that all alone.”

Morris said he’s also witnessed their journeys in terms of “incredible growth — from saying, ‘I can’t’ to ‘I can,’ to ‘I did’ to I will.’ And these journeys eclipse any journeys measured only in distance. Physical abuse, substance abuse, health issues and deaths — some of you went through these things, but came out the other side. We’re so proud of each and every one of you, and you should be, too.”

Furthermore, he told them, “I owe you for the promises you’ve kept, the tears you’ve cried, the grit, determination and persistence you’ve shown and your willingness to come back [from adversity]. I know I’m standing here because of you. I know, if you can do it, I can do it. Hashtag 20, go Timber Wolves!”

Then graduating senior Joel Calix stepped to the podium to share the challenges he’s overcome. When he was 14, he lived in Honduras with his parents, sister and two younger brothers. “School was four hours from my village, so my first struggle was leaving my family to attend it,” he said.

“On May 25, 2009, my mom hugged me, said she loved me and told me to be careful,” said Calix. “She later phoned and asked if I was OK. I said, ‘Yes,’ and she said she’d dreamed I was in a bad car accident. Two hours later, my dad called and said I had to come home because my mom had died. She’d had a heart attack and passed away.”

At first, he said, “I asked, ‘Why me?’ My mom was really important to me. Then I left school because I had to get a job and help support my two little brothers. I went to the U.S. where my older brother lived, and I worked 10 hours a day in a restaurant. But I couldn’t make as much money as my brother because I couldn’t speak English.”

So Calix came to Mountain View to continue his education. But tragedy still found him. “On Feb. 11, 2011, my sister called from Honduras and said my dad was in a car accident and died,” he said. “I was sad and alone, but I found the courage to be the man of my family.”

He said school was difficult because he didn’t speak the language, his classes were hard and everything was new to him. “But I felt I could count on the teachers as friends and family,” he said. “Mountain View helped me reach my goals. Working until midnight after school was hard; but I knew, if I didn’t continue with my education, my life would stay the same.”

“Thanks to my teachers and counselors, I’m graduating today,” Calix told his classmates. “The struggle develops your strength. Don’t stop when you’re tired; stop when you’re done. God bless you all.”

Speaking next was Dannia Contreras. Her whole life, she said, people told her there are good and bad mirrors reflecting her decisions and she should choose which ones are the best for her. But during her first two years of high school, she had a tough time doing that.

“I was making bad decisions that affected my schoolwork and my family,” she said. “I skipped school and I lost my dad’s trust. My grandmother was worried about me, but I didn’t want any help. At school, they gave me a list of options and Mountain View was one of them. At first, I didn’t want to come here, but I thought of my siblings and didn’t want to be a bad mirror for them.”

To her surprise, said Contreras, “This was the most accepting school I’ve ever been to and the teachers were like family. Here, I completed my work and became successful, and I reconnected with my aunts who’ve been like mothers to me and have shaped me.”

“Most important, for the past six years, my dad has been my mother, father and best friend,” she continued. “My grandma who raised me, my grandpa who worked 12 hours a day and all my relatives are important to me. And after today, we’re all mirrors. Our reflections are now what we make of them, from this day forward, so make them the best you can.”