Riley Cruz was among the 332 Okkodo High School seniors who waited inside her car to receive her diploma.

"It feels good, but it's also very sad that we have to do it like this," said Cruz. "But, it's OK. Congrats to everyone."

Cruz, who said she is now ready to take on college, joined the hundreds of other graduates and their loved ones, as each drove onto the Dededo campus Tuesday morning for the Guam Department of Education's first Grad & Go ceremony. Many of the cars were adorned with balloons, banners and other decorations.

"The first time ever for all of us," said Okkodo High Principal Begona Flores. "I was observing the movement. It was very smooth with the cars coming in, and the flow was great even with the graduates. They really did a good job. This is a major success for them."

The graduates each exited their car and walked onto a stage set up at the front of the school to be recognized. Family and friends stayed inside their vehicles, recording on cellphones and taking pictures.

"At first, I felt a bit sad, but I am grateful for all the opportunities that my teachers and class council pulled for us," said Julie Ann Laxamana, OHS Class of 2020 valedictorian.

Laxamana said she was excited to be the school's top student, but admits it came as something of a surprise.

"I really didn't expect it at first, because for me personally I believe I shouldn't compare myself to others. ... I never really thought of it as a competition, but a competition against myself to better myself," she said.

Her message to her fellow classmates: "Everyone, don't take life for granted. Don't take these days for granted, and live every day as if it was your and everyone else's last."

Bulldogs stand proud

Despite the virus taking away the chance for them to completely finish out the school year, the Bulldogs stood proud as they each turned the tassels on their graduation caps and exited the campus one last time as students.

"It feels good because I finally get my diploma," said Conan Baza. "Yeah, there's the pandemic but as long as I get this, I'm good."

"We did it. We graduated high school and I am very thankful for everyone that supported us even through the pandemic," said Alexandria Cruz. "I hope everyone is being safe."

"I'm good," said Caera Bonto. "Thank you to my family and all my friends"

"I am feeling ecstatic," said Kyle Cruz. "I am just glad it did come to this and I am excited to graduate. I appreciate everyone putting in the work to do this for us."

"I feel very excited because all the hard work paid off," said Juleyah Cruz, who said the only downside is that the mask they are required to wear hides her smile.


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