South LA principal surprises top of the class graduates with home celebration

RISE at Hawkins High School valedictorian and salutatorian receive special celebrations amid COVD-19 pandemic
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- With so many students unable to cross the stage with cap and gown due to COVID-19 pandemic, one South Los Angeles high school found a special way to honor their top of the class graduates.

"I think it's important to do something like this because of what's happening in the world today," said Pablo Mejia, Principal with Responsible Indigenous Social Entrepreneurship or R.I.S.E School of Business at Augustus F. Hawkins High School.

A procession of faculty and staff surprised the salutatorian and valedictorian by hand-delivering the prestigious news straight to their doorsteps.

"We just really wanted to let them know that we have not forgotten about them, that we're constantly thinking about them and that their hard work doesn't go unnoticed," said Cynthia Castillo, teacher with R.I.S.E. at Hawkins High School.

In addition to a congratulatory cake and balloons, each of the teens received a framed certificate, $1,000 college scholarship and $300 gift card from Northgate González Market.

"I am very grateful," said Ashley Molina Aguilar, class of 2020 salutatorian with R.I.S.E. at Hawkins High School. "My teachers and mentors have given me the opportunity to grow with them and now graduating," Aguilar told ABC7.

"I've been trying since 9th grade. I remember trying to get straight A's like every single year and it was so good that it finally paid off," said Melanie Beltran, class of 2020 valedictorian with R.I.S.E. at Hawkins High School.

Hawkins High School commencement plans are underway as a virtual graduation set for June 11 with ceremonies beginning at 5 p.m.
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