When Jenna Patel accepts her diploma today at Stonewall Jackson High School, it will be for her as well as for her family in their pursuit of the American dream.
“They are my biggest inspiration. They sacrificed a lot for me and my brother. I want to go to college and make my parents proud,” Patel said.
Her father Brad was in his early 20s and her mom Kilpa was 18 when, about 25 years ago, they came to the United States from India. Her father, she said, had graduated from high school in India and spoke limited English. Her mother spoke no English. She said they wanted a better life for themselves and any possible children.
Today, her parents operate a hotel and a convenience store, and Jenna Patel, 18, will be the first in her family to go to college. She plans to attend Temple University in Philadelphia.
“It’s a lot of opportunities. They are excited for me. They want me to thrive,” she said.
Jenna Patel plans to study either sports or physical therapy. She said she is ready to compete at a higher level in a competitive program at a competitive school. Part of that confidence comes from the fact that while at Stonewall Jackson High School she earned her associate’s degree at Lord Fairfax Community College.
“I am nervous and excited,” Patel said. “Graduating will be bittersweet. I will miss my family and my friends.”
The Class of 2019 is setting school records. In total, those graduating today have been offered $2.3 million in scholarship money, the most of any Stonewall Jackson High School graduating class, said school principal Michael Dorman.
The school also has eight students who have earned their associate’s degrees from LFCC before their high school diplomas, again the most of any Stonewall Jackson class so far. Another seven graduating seniors have earned about half of the credits needed to earn an associate’s degree, Dorman said.
“Academically, this is a super-strong group of kids,” he said.
And yet they have a fun side.
“They have been an easy-going group of kids,” he said.
Commencement exercises will begin at 7:30 p.m. today at the new gym at Stonewall Jackson High School in Quicksburg.
Speakers will include Dorman and senior Jenna Souder. There are 120 graduation candidates, and of that number, 72 percent are college-bound, 13 percent will go to work in their field of vocational training or will continue vocational training, 9 percent will enter the workforce and 6 percent will join the military.