May 12, 2020

Student Spotlight: How COVID-19 motivates first-gen graduate on path to college

Many of us have heard “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.” Going into my first day of high school, all I could think about was the destination – graduation night. However, being the oldest sibling also meant achieving this goal wasn’t just for me. I realized early on that I had to be the one to set the steppingstone for my younger siblings, show them just how important education is and what it means to have a high school diploma; graduating is the first step in doing so.

Losing the privilege of that special walk because of the COVID-19 outbreak took a good while for me to process. Initially, I didn’t know how to react to the news, but as the days went by I thought deeply about that one night and just how much was being taken away from me.

High school was always a place for me to make memories. Whether attending a football game or sharing jokes in the classroom, there were many moments I had to appreciate where I was.

Bryan and fellow members of the Computer Coding Club smile for a photo during a scheduled meeting.

This agglomeration of experiences, created from the past 12 years, is what makes this unfortunate circumstance hurt the most. The cancellation of school is something that I never in my wildest dreams would’ve expected to play such a significant and dynamic role in my senior year. It’s even more unfortunate that this had to occur during the last quarter of the school year when several big events are usually planned. As a result, we seniors don’t get the chance to have a prom, a senior night, but most importantly a graduation ceremony, which I’m sure every senior is disappointed about.

In addition to his studies, Bryan worked part time at the TGR Learning Lab in Anaheim, CA, where he worked with middle in high school students in the after-school program. He’s pictured above (center) with other staff members during a Family Night.

Graduation night was the most important event to me because it is the last night you get to share a good-bye with the people you’ve created so many life-long memories with. Not only that, but it’s also the last time we may get to see and thank our teachers who individually challenged us into becoming students with a driven work ethic and urged us to appreciate our education – to appreciate the journey.

At the start of my second semester, I began to visualize that night and eagerly count down the days as they progressed. It seemed perfect – walking down the continuous rows of different students as our families commemorate us and our accomplishments that represent the countless hours and enduring effort that we’ve poured into every assignment for the last four years. It seemed perfect to be one of the first in my family to obtain a formal education and a blessing to be able to move on to higher education. It’s nothing short of a blessing, which is why it’s truly a discouraging matter for us seniors to not be able to go through that experience.

Bryan poses for his senior portraits as he prepares to graduate from High School in the class of 2020.

Although we won’t get to finish our last year the way we had initially anticipated, the only way to move past all of this is to focus on what comes after that final night. As a senior, the next journey I will be going through is my four years of college. This coming August I will be attending California State University, Fullerton as a freshman, majoring in computer science. I’m planning to become a software engineer, as it has been a childhood dream of mine.

After participating in College Bound Academy, Bryan and other participants had a unique opportunity to visit Disneyland to learn about STEM careers from a panel of Imagineers and experienced the Star Wars Rise of Resistance ride before it opened to the public in January of 2020.

I’m taking this situation as a learning experience to strengthen my perseverance and hope others are coping the same way. Despite the fact that this hindrance was enough to stop my high school graduation, it won’t prevent me from getting the education I worked for relentlessly.


Redefining what it means to be a champion.