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Lansing schools celebrate graduating class of Latino students in special ceremony

Students wearing red cap and gowns stand by their seats in auditorium at Everett High School in Lansing.
Megan Schellong
Graduating Latino seniors from the Lansing School District at the 2022 Latino Recognition Ceremony.

The Lansing Public School District celebrated the graduation of its Latino students this week in the first in-person ceremony since the coronavirus pandemic began. The special celebration honors a milestone that didn’t always come easy for the area’s Latino youth.

Dressed in cap and gown, more than one hundred Latino students from Lansing walked across the stage at Everett High School Tuesday afternoon.

After having spent most of their high school experience learning through a computer due to the pandemic, they looked relieved to have some sense of normalcy back in their lives, even if it meant putting on a mask.

Kylie Gonzales Anido is a graduating senior at Everett High. She said she had been looking forward to the event all semester.

“I am extremely nervous because I was online for two years and a half, and so, I am nervous and I was nervous coming here but I am excited actually," she said.

During the pandemic, Gonzales Anido says she struggled with severe depression that was triggered by her inability to connect with her friends in person.

Kylie Gonzales Anido is a Black Latina student from Everett High. She's wearing a black mask and a red cap and gown. Around her neck she's wearing a sash made in the style of a Mexican sarape.
Megan Schellong
Kylie Gonzales Anido is a senior at Everett High School.

“I was having a hard time connecting with my friends because we couldn’t hang out and I was very depressed because I didn’t have anybody to talk to, other than my family, and I was like, I put a lot of work into actually talking to them and putting effort because I felt helpless and had nobody," she said.

Gonzales Anido says she feels proud of herself for staying in school despite the hardships of the last several years.

“That I actually accomplished to stay in school and things to go well with school, keeping in mind that mental health and stuff like that and I actually was able to pull through," she added.

For more than 50 years, a parent group known as the Latino Advisory Committee, or LAC, has organized a yearly ceremony for Latino students graduating from Lansing schools.

Prompted by low graduation rates and the difficulty many Latinos in the community were having accessing resources in the schools, community members got together in 1972 to form the committee.

Not only does the group serve as an avenue for resources but it also provides opportunities for networking through the annual graduation event.

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Sergio Keck, the district's deputy superintendent of special populations, says participating in the ceremony is now a generational tradition for the district’s Latino families.

“I have seen students that their parents were my students and now they have children and their children are graduating. And some of them we’ve had to work very hard for the parents to get them through school and now they are here to celebrate their children’s celebration," Keck said.

Every year the committee gives the graduating students a multi-colored sash made like a traditional Mexican sarape, a colorful shawl-like garment. The students are encouraged to wear the sash during the district's full commencement in June to showcase their heritage.

Tyrique Carter a Black Latino student is sitting down next to his mother Teaira Carter on a wooden bench at Everett High School. Tyrique is wearing a blue cap and gown and a multi colored sash around his neck. In between them is Tyrique's brother, Ray Carter in a baby car seat.
Megan Schellong
Tyrique Carter (left) poses in photo with his mom Teaira Carter and his brother Ray Carter.

Tyrique Carter, a graduating senior from Eastern High School, said the celebration is an opportunity to show the community how far he’s come.

“Growing up, a lot of people said that I wouldn’t graduate high school. A lot of people, they doubted the fact [because] my mother was really young and she had me at a young age, that I wouldn’t really be much, but here I am. 2022, proud, happy with a smile on my face, ready to graduate and ready to go off to college and start a new chapter in my life," he said.

Come the fall, Carter plans on enrolling at Lansing Community College and Gonzales Anido plans on beginning her journey at Michigan State University towards becoming a therapist.

As WKAR's Bilingual Latinx Stories Reporter, Michelle reports in both English and Spanish on stories affecting Michigan's Latinx community.
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