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H is for honored

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Mike Goodrich paints 25 wooden H’s to give to graduating Highland High School seniors. (Anthony Jackson/Albuquerque Journal)

Alaa Al Rahmoun won’t get the traditional high school graduation she’s been looking forward to.

Instead of lauding the accomplishment of being the first in her family to have obtained a high school diploma or celebrating with her friends, the 20-year old Syrian refugee will be at home, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Al Rahmoun fled the Syrian war and started her freshman year at Highland High School in 2016. She didn’t know any English and for a while, she said, she felt like she didn’t fit in. Now, she knows English, she has friends and a support bright spotsystem.

Despite these accomplishments, she won’t be donning her white gown and navy blue and gold hood.

“It’s hard because I always dreamed of going on the stage with all my friends,” Al Rahmoun said. “Everything changed.”

Instead, Al Rahmoun and about 230 other seniors will be receiving congratulation cards and small gifts from alumni and Highland faculty and staff who “adopt” them.

Brenda Jaramillo, Highland’s counseling secretary, adopted Al Rahmoun and another senior.

Jaramillo has already sent Al Rahmoun a few graduation gifts – a Domino’s gift card, an Easter card and some cash.

“It’s helping them recognize it’s a celebration for them,” Jaramillo said.

Some seniors will get blankets. All will get a navy blue and gold trim commemorative H hand painted by Mike Goodrich, the vice president of Highland’s Band Boosters. Goodrich, a class of ’84 alumnus wants to help celebrate their big milestone.

“It thrills me to see those kids. They’re so thankful and so respectful,” Goodrich said. “It’s so worth it, you know?”

More than 10 days have passed since Dante Smith, a Highland High School class of 1989 alumnus and sports trainer, started the “Adopt A Senior – Highland High School Class of 2020” Facebook page. Of the 230 graduating seniors, about 135 have joined the page along with another roughly 135 alumni.

So far, Smith said, the reception of this concept has been amazing with some alumni adopting up to four graduates. Smith’s goals for the page were to create a place where seniors can get an introduction to the alumni world and to provide support for the graduates – the class of the quarantine. It’s uncertain when this pandemic will end, but Smith is certain the program will continue after the class of 2020.

“When the first day of class comes…, hopefully in August, we want to change the page from adopted seniors 2020 to 2021 and start getting those 2021 senior profiles up … to get them connected right away,” Smith said.