When Jose Diaz arrived at Maple High School, he was unmotivated and in serious danger of failing out of school altogether.

“All the things I was going through in my personal life made me so mad at the world, so school was not my top priority,” he said. “Halfway into my sophomore year, my best grade was a D-minus and it looked as if I was on the road to never graduating. As I grew mentally and physically, I realized I wanted a better future for myself.”

A lot changed in the two years since then.

On Wednesday, Diaz — who is now college-bound — was among more than 80 seniors celebrated during a mini-graduation event at the continuation school’s Vandenberg Village campus.

The ceremony was unlike any other in the school’s history, as graduates and their families arrived at staggered times and social distancing measures were put in place to comply with public health orders due to COVID-19.

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Xavier Pannell turns his tassel to officially graduate Wednesday during Maple High School’s ceremony in Vandenberg Village.

Just like in the past, though, the event was marked by graduates sharing their personal journeys as they looked to celebrate and inspire one another.

Diaz, who is planning to attend Hancock College before transferring to UC Berkeley, used a prerecorded video message to address his classmates and thank those who supported his academic turnaround.

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