Outside of Odessa High School, about 90 signs noting colleges, universities and certificates that students are going to — or have achieved — were hammered into the ground Friday.
Ector County ISD Superintendent Scott Muri, who was one of the people placing signs, said the idea came from a high school in Atlanta where he tried it years ago.
“It was wildly popular. The kids loved it; families loved it. And so (I) just brought that here. It sends a message to all of the students as they come and go every day; we can get there. I’m a student at the school and look where I could possibly go. It helps kids understand the plethora of options that are available in every area. You know, today you see the military; you see technical schools; you see two-year institutions; you see four-year institutions. Now, for the kids here at Odessa High School, the sky’s the limit for them. And you have international colleges represented today, too, so they’re going all over the world,” Muri said.
He added that this was done for the first time last year and all five high schools had signs planted Friday.
“… It’s the right thing to do. It celebrates post-secondary options for kids; makes them proud. When you come in and see your sign. That’s where I’m going; it’s fun to watch their faces,” Muri said.
Odessa High’s graduation is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. May 28 at Ratliff Stadium.
Senior Nadia Garcia, 18, is heading to University of Texas at El Paso. She also earned an associate degree from Odessa College.
Garcia said she likes the culture at UTEP and they worked with all the credit hours she had already earned. She plans to go into biomedical science.
She plans to attend dentistry school in Houston afterward and become a pediatric dentist.
Garcia said graduating high school is a “scary thing.”
“It’s like a big milestone that you really don’t think is ever going to happen and then you start getting caps and gowns and senior pictures and you’re like OK maybe it’s happening now,” she added.
Madison Gonzalez, an 18-year-old senior, is going to Texas Tech University. For her, graduation is “kind of a blur right now.”
“And this year went by so fast. I can’t believe we’re already graduating, but … I’m very excited. I feel like this is something everybody’s kind of always looked forward to, so it’s pretty exciting to finally see everybody in one place,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez has an older sister and a younger brother. She said she will be a first-generation college student.
Like Garcia, she took dual credit courses through OC.
“… I think it’s a really good program. It was a really easy transition for me,” Gonzalez said.
Principal Mauricio Marquez said there are about 755 students in the graduating class currently.
“They’re a special group of kids, this year more so than any other year, obviously, because of the challenges that that they had to face. I’m extremely proud of our kids. …,” Marquez said.
He noted that students have had to face a number of obstacles due to COVID-1 and they’ve still been able to excel.
“… They’ve done amazing. One of the things that I told him from the very first week of school is COVID has changed the world. It’s changed everybody’s lives in some way, form or fashion. But the one thing I hope that it does not change is your goals, your dreams and your aspirations. Don’t allow anybody, or anything for that matter, to change the course of what you want to do one day. And … as you can see from many of the signs, many of our kids will be going to many, many different parts not only of the nation” but some will be studying abroad, Marquez said.
“We’re definitely blessed to have this group of kids and we’re certainly looking forward to all the things that they will accomplish in the future,” he added.
College and Career Counselor Angelica Moreno said her heart goes out to the seniors because this has been a difficult year for them to stay on track and get their work done.
Moreno added that she can’t wait to find out where they are next year and where life has taken them.
“I admire every single student that not only is trying to go to college, but is trying to finish high school and get to the next step no matter what it is,” Moreno said.