Class of 2020
The Class of 2020 faced some unique challenges as schools were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although we couldn't be together in person as a community, we still celebrate and honor their accomplishments.
- Lily Huerta, Valedictorian
- Leslyette Perez Torres, Salutatorian
- Natalie Horesh, Class Representative
Welcome Merlo Station class of 2020 and hello to all of our family, friends and special guests here with us today.
It’s such a pleasure to be standing here before you today to represent the class of 2020 as we celebrate the completion of high school. We did it!
We have all overcome countless obstacles to get to where we are today. Throughout my high school experience I could never see myself graduating, yet I am and here are all you, also. I want to say thank you to my peers, my teachers, and to the community that exists within Merlo. Because of these supports I have grown to believe in myself and be myself.
During these strange times we need to continue to be a strong community and help each other. Finding ways to connect can be difficult, but when we’re willing to reach out and be there for each other we can get through it.
When I first started high school I thought I knew what my life was going to look like. I thought I was going to be a dancer and live my life through that pathway, but instead I was faced with reality. I experienced the loss of friendships, invalidation by staff, and being unsupported everyday in my academic environment. Recovering from my recent scoliosis surgery and mental health obstacles made it extremely hard to attend school on a regular basis. I was struggling to stay in school at all, and saw Merlo as my last hope. Think about the challenges that brought you here, and think about how far you’ve come. We should all be so very proud of ourselves.
Deciding to attend Merlo was honestly the best academic choice I’ve made for myself, for my education and my overall wellbeing. At Merlo it’s been different. I’ve made a lot of friendships, been accepted by staff, and each teacher has made me feel welcome and heard at this school. I’ve made so many connections worth keeping. Throughout my senior year alone I joined Merlo’s gender and sexuality alliance or GSA, I had the opportunity to work alongside volunteers and staff, along with the children in the daycare, and created many memories I won’t forget. I finally found a school where I have felt truly comfortable in. The outreach and understanding from everyone in the Merlo community has made high school much more tolerable and gave me the belief that I could get it done.
Though it may be hard to reflect on all of our accomplishments and celebrate during this time, we deserve to take a moment to recognize our achievements. We need to use our experience with overcoming challenges to help us become strong members in our community. There’s a lot of change that needs to happen in this world and I believe that we are going to be able to help bring that change. Times are extremely hard right now, and everything in the world feels chaotic. We need to be the change that we want within our community, we need to take action. Whether it's by voting, protesting, sharing information, any action helps.
We’ve all made it here today, together. I couldn’t be more grateful to share these last special moments in high school in the Merlo community, even if it isn’t how we all imagined it. Thank you for your time, and congratulations class of 2020!
Good afternoon friends, family, staff and most importantly, class of 2020. I know we’re celebrating under unusual circumstances, but nonetheless it’s a celebration that we should make the most of even if we’re going to be inside our cars in the middle of a big parking lot.
I’d like to take this time to thank everyone at Merlo Station: the staff, my peers, my friends. When I first came to this school in 2017 as a sophomore, I saw it as my last option for education. I started struggling mentally and emotionally in freshman year when I was still living in Northeast Portland. When I stepped into Merlo Station that gloomy October morning of 2017, I remember thinking to myself, “If this doesn’t work out, I’ll just drop out.” And I almost did. I don’t know if the teachers remembered me then, but I was struggling. My grandpa had passed away in November 2017, then my uncle and cousin not even a year later. My cousin, Justice, would’ve also graduated high school this year and I wanted to give him a quick shoutout. Losing loved ones caused a big gap in my personal life. I let myself get engulfed by grief, depression, anxiety, and letting myself fail because I thought I couldn’t succeed with all the emotions I was trying to conquer. My attendance wasn’t the best then… and I’m going to admit it wasn’t the best this year either, but it was a huge improvement. I almost let myself fail. The staff didn’t give up on me. If it wasn’t for the constant support, the constant cheering and encouragement for me to get back on my feet after falling multiple times, I would’ve dropped out a long time ago. I'm not going to lie, there was a time when I found it a bit annoying that they had such optimism and hope for me because I didn’t have the same faith in myself like they did. Looking back now, I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Merlo is not a traditional high school. But I think we all knew that when we stepped into the small classes and got to carry around the blue cards, yellow planners, got to know the attendance policy and hexters. Teachers have more one-on-one time with students, the staff lets you know about options if something isn’t working out, you actually feel like you’re being heard. If it wasn’t for the College Track program, a program that provides high school and college credit, I probably wouldn’t be graduating this year. I will forever be grateful for that.
We did it. We finished high school. I know one of the moments we most anticipated throughout our educational years was modified to keep everyone safe and it wasn’t what we had in mind, but we’re all here, here to receive the award we deserve for putting up with 12 years of education. We all went through hardships, we’ve all loved and lost these past few years. But we managed to get to the end of this chapter.
Remember that no matter how long it took you, how much you struggled, you deserve to be celebrated. You deserve to be recognized. I am incredibly proud of all of you. Look at us, we’re all grown and ready to tackle the next challenge. Whatever your next challenge is going to be, I wish you all the best of luck. Congratulations, class of 2020, we did it!
Good afternoon class of 2020, family and friends. My name is Natalie Horesh. I am honored to be here today with all of you to celebrate the hard work of every senior, as well as the completion, accomplishments and success of the 2020 class. In consideration of the rough last few months we have had. I am so glad that we are able to come together for this important moment in our lives with the support of our families and friends who have come to celebrate with us today.
In all of the schools I have attended, I have never felt happier, more confident and more supported as a student in the way that I did at Merlo Station High School.
When I started at Merlo my sophomore year I didn’t know what to expect. I had heard many negative Merlo stereotypes but chose to ignore them in order to better myself. Every stereotype I heard, turned out to be wrong. This was the best decision I had made for myself in all of my years of learning.
In class we did a class opener called circle up. Circle up takes place at the beginning of the day. The class gathers around in a circle so that we are all facing each other, giving us all a chance to speak. This allows us to get our thoughts out while also learning about our peers. I felt as though our personal life actually mattered in consideration of our education which is the kind of understanding I had wanted from other schools before. I never received judgement by my teachers or the students in my class.
During my first hexter at Merlo I took a new student orientation class with Bob. This class was for new Merlo students and gave us the opportunity to better understand the system and rules, but also create a bond, make friends, and open up. Bob was speaking to the class and said “Here at Merlo we are here for you, you are not here for us.” That was the moment I knew I belonged at Merlo. What Bob said was true. The staff at merlo sacrifice their time, energy, and patience for every individual that walks the halls. I can say that in the staff's effort, it was like everyday was my first day.
I continued to do great things at this school. My sophomore year I wrote a paper by choice about my love for Merlo. I wanted Jessica, who was the dean of students at the time, to read it after she had told me about her passion in writing. This was a hobby we shared. My paper ended up being read at the staff meeting and hung up on the wall in the Merlo hallways, followed by continuous compliments on my writing from all of my teachers. This was the kind of recognition I received at Merlo everyday. I was a valued member of the community.
I took Discovery my senior year with Mark and Laurel as a returning student. Discovery was similar to Bob's new student orientation class but was a full scheduled class that I would be in all day with the same classmates. At first we were shy and awkward. But it didn’t take long for us to open up, creating a bond with each other and becoming close. We helped each other do better in team activities by calmly problem solving and putting our heads together, as well as challenged each other in times of competition. Best of all we shared countless laughs. For my birthday, Mark baked a cake. He generously took the time to make my birthday enjoyable. On another occasion Mark cooked us breakfast and served it to us to reward our effort and hard work at the end of the week. In Laurel’s class we spent a lot of time doing crafts such as weaving. Laurel gave us the opportunity to relax and practice mindfulness. Discovery turned out to be a very positive part of my senior year that I am glad I got to experience with the classmates I had by my side.
During the assemblies, we were given awards for our attendance and GPAs, which motivated me to do better. My effort was acknowledged. My flaws were not judged. My mistakes were not something I had to cope with alone anymore. In this welcoming environment, I could be completely myself. Merlo Station High School was my safe place. I couldn’t be more grateful and proud today to stand in front of my friends and family, and say that I am officially graduating from Merlo Station Highschool.
I give thanks to my closest friends who believed in me through my struggles and disbelief in myself. I give thanks to my family, and to those who have treated me like family throughout my entire education so far. I have felt care, compassion, love, and support from those of you. Lastly, I give a huge thanks to my teachers, counselors and administrators at Merlo, who took the time and stayed patient with me.
I am thankful for everyone here today applauding us for the completion of high school. Today is the first day of the rest of our lives, I look forward to our future accomplishments. We couldn’t have made it here feeling the joy that we feel in this moment, without the support we received. So again, thank you everyone.