Seniors prepare to embark on new journey

Freedom New Mexico: Tony Bullocks Clovis High School seniors, from left, CJ Goodrich, 18, Tori Bailey, 17, and Carmella Caltagirone, 18, talk about their future plans Friday at the Java Loft.

By Clarence Plank: Freedom New Mexico

For Portales High School senior Katie Montiel, 18, the road to graduation has been a long journey.

She wants to go on to college and get a business degree or study to become a probation officer.

Portales senior Andres Carbajal, 18, is thinking about taking a year off so he can work and save some money before going to Clovis Community College and major in computers.

And Clovis senior CJ Goodrich, 18, is planing on attending the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Ariz., to study global security and intelligence, then join the Air Force to be a pilot.

“It is like a CIA, FBI kind of thing,” Goodrich said. “I was always interested in those spy gear toys when I was a little kid, so my mom wasn’t to surprised that I wanted to do this.”

It’s that time of the year for these and other seniors across the region. A time to look back over the past — sometimes poignantly — and on to the future.

Graduations start this weekend and continue through May.

Clovis High School students take their walk across the stage May 22 at the Curry County Events Center.

Portales graduates follow suit on May 28 at Eastern New Mexico University Greyhound Arena.

It has been a long four years for some students. For others, the time has slipped away too fast.

It hasn’t been easy for Montiel. She struggled with going to school so much measures were going to be put in place to force her attendance.

Now, a little more than a year later, and after making some changes in her life, she wants to go on to college and get good grades.

“It has been long and hard,” Montiel said. “I wanted to give up a couple of times and not come to school anymore. But my mom wouldn’t let me do that because her and my dad supported me.

“I want to go to college at ENMU so I can be closer to my family just so I can be around them just in case an emergency happens,” Montieo said.

As he gets set to graduate from Portales High in two weeks, Carbajal wonders where the time went.

“It seems like the time has gone by so fast,” he said. “It was only yesterday I was in the sixth grade, and now I’m about to graduate.”

Portales history teacher Wendy Brooks said she knows many of the students “because my daughter is part of this graduating class.”

“It has been nice to see how they have grown over the years into the outstanding adults they have become,” Brooks said. “I think they are going to be successful. It has been a tough four years, but a fun four years, and it is hard to see them go.”

Some 440 Clovis High School seniors will be saying good-bye to teachers, some friendships and sports, and embarking on a new life. Among them Goodrich, who calls it a strong senior class and says he’ll miss pep rallies, his soccer games and cheerleaders.

Senior English teacher Renie Smith said the graduating class is a wonderful group and have unique personalities. She has been teaching in the Clovis school system for 30 years.

“They are not the strongest academic group I’ve had, but they are the sweetest,” Smith said.

Carmela Caltagirone, 18, is one of her students. Her dad recently got a job in India so she is going to take a year off and either travel Asia or do some volunteer work.

She will remember her class as one that came together and were there for each other in a time of tragedy — a fatal crash in October 2009 that took the life of 2006 PHS graduate Ashleah Richards.

“I’ve been at this high school for only two years and even then there were a lot of events that brought everybody together,” Caltagirone said. “Last year … (Ashleah) died in the car wreck and that was one of the times I saw everyone come together at the high school. Even the teachers were gracious to everybody.”