DEMING – Five years ago, Bryan Simpson envisioned a high school rich in academic achievement with the ability to allow its student body the opportunity to collect college course credits in a high school setting. Simpson was the principal at Mimbres Valley High School when he pitched his vision to former DPS Superintendent Arsenio Romero.
“Five years later, we are finally seeing the payoff to years of hard work,” Simpson told a full-house audience at Friday’s first-ever Early College High School Commencement Exercise in the Mimbres Valley Special Events Center. “But the significance of that moment needs to be noted. The significance is that the leadership of this community, the superintendent, the school board, the county manager, the president of Western New Mexico University, the director of the learning center, all signed off on a project that would be five years in the making. It takes a lot of leadership to make a project like this happen, but it makes a statement about our community that we have solid leadership, that we have the commitment to succeed.”
The ECHS Class of 2022 will go down in Deming’s history as the school’s first graduating class – a testimony to the school district’s vision with the support of the community for establishing a plan for higher learning.
Dr. Rachel Bailey stood side-by-side with Simpson as they both faced the unknown and the unchartered territory of opening a new high school concept.
“I had the same fears and anxieties as the students we tried to recruit and the staff we interviewed to join us, wondering, will this school make it? Will the community see the vision? Will the students and families take a chance on something so different, in a small town where change isn’t always easy?”
These were the thoughts that raced through Dr. Bailey’s four years ago. She is the school’s TOSA (Teacher On Special Assignment).”
Bailey told the audience the graduating students “had grit.”
“Grit is an educational term defined by Angela Duckworth as ‘passion and perseverance for long-term goals.’
The students who joined us that first year, and who sit before you today had to have "grit." Grit is an educational term defined by Angela Duckworth as ‘passion and perseverance for long-term goals.’
“Duckworth explained what grit isn’t. ‘Grit isn’t talent. Grit isn’t how intensely, for the moment, you want something.’
“Yet, when I think of grit, I like to think about the grit we all know – the grit of the gravel in the parking lot. I imagine that grit from the many times I have attempted to balance my way across the parking lot in my high heels
and met that grit in the palms of my hands, or my skinned knees. And that is where I find our graduates today.”
The ECHS Class of 2022 Salutatorian Lauren Paulk took to the podium and addressed the graduates and audience.
“First and foremost, I would like to thank everyone who has supported me, mentored me, and stood by me this whole time. I have had an amazing support system in my family, friends, and professors. I am extremely grateful for all of the memories, opportunities, and even hardships that I have encountered these last four years.
“When I initially chose to pursue Early College High School as a newly graduated eighth grader, I had no clue things would turn out this way. I was able to be a published author in the International Journal of Science, speak at a state legislative session and meet and make connections with people I would have not otherwise have gotten to know. I won't lie and say it was easy., because it was not, but all of the hardships and challenges were worth it.
“I really want to speak specifically to the students who are currently still in ECHS. I know things can seem challenging and you may want to quit, but don't. I am embarrassed to say, but there was a time these past four years and I strongly considered quitting. However, I am so thankful that I did not. Because of hard work and the opportunities brought forth from ECHS, I have been able to achieve the goals that I have worked for since I was young.”
Lauren will be attending Palm Beach Atlantic University in Florida this fall and will be majoring in Biology with a concentration in Marine Biology.
“The odds were not in my favor. I came from a single-parent household where three of us will all be in college at the time of my graduation. By receiving my associates degree in high school, I was able to alleviate burden off of my family and only have to go to college two and a half years after high school,” she said.
“I would personally like to thank my mother who always encouraged me and mentored me, my grandmother for always supporting me and my dreams.
“I can't thank my classmates, professors, and family members enough. I would not be here without hard work and all of their support. Thank you all and off to the next chapter of our lives.”
ECHS Valedictorian Estrella Escareno told the Class of 2022 and families, “This is a very big milestone for our seniors and they should be properly celebrated for it. After working so hard for four years we can finally say that we did it, but I wanted everyone here to know that it wasn't an easy feat for me or any of the other seniors. All the work we had to do, the uncertainty of the program, and even the internal struggles that we had to overcome were all obstacles that we faced throughout our four years.”
Estrella pointed to her freshman year as the most difficult. “Early College High School was a new idea to which I remember a lot of students were wary of. The idea of saving money and earning an associate degree at the same time as earning our high school diploma sounded very attractive, but none of us knew whether such an idea would work here in Deming.
“Last week, was our graduation from WNMU. It feels pretty insane to think about, but you have no idea how amazing it actually feels,” Estrella expressed.
In closing, Estrella said, “I wanted to thank all the teachers and staff, to those that were here from the beginning, and also to those that joined later along the way. Thank you for being here. I'm going to miss you all when I leave.
“Lastly, a big thank you and congratulations to the class of 2022. I hope that any pressures that you guys have carried with you up to this point have been lifted off your shoulders and that you can go on to achieve your dreams.”
Kyenote speaker and ECHS educator Jean Hase reminded the students of how time has flown.
“With the support of Deming Public Schools, Mr. Simpson and Dr. Bailey designed master schedules, reached out to community partners, wrote a grant to fund the school, ordered books, and recruited students. They rescued shelves and desks from the demolition of the old Deming High. The building continued with the help of Mr. Allison and Mrs. Duran, Mrs. Sosa Benting and Ms. Luna. Together, they created an atmosphere of family where students, staff, and teachers shared Thanksgiving tables, laughter, hardships, and blessings.
‘This is not about the old K-mart building. This is about building a dream. What could be more important?
“The staff and faculty feel so incredibly blessed to be a part of this experience. We hope you carry that feeling of hope, family, and gratitude as you build your futures.
"While you were here, you were held dear. We learned alongside you as you helped to build traditions, as you helped to build leadership, as you helped to build a pathway to success in college classes . . . as you helped to build a school with us.
"The years have flown, and now you head out to build your lives. Make and remake the vision to carry you forward. You have a powerful example from this place, these people, and this community.”
Bill Armendariz can be reached at 575-546-2611 or email@example.com.
ECHS Class of 2022
Top 10 percent
Dominic Xavier Armendariz
Jilliana Rae Marrufo
Annika Jayde McGuire
James Wallace Stockman
This article originally appeared on Deming Headlight: Early College High School graduates first-ever senior class