Hundreds of seniors will toss their caps in the air in the coming weeks as they celebrate their high school graduation. Umatilla County students will go off to college, the military, work and trade school.

Many students graduating this week have overcome a lot to get to this milestone. Below are profiles of four students whose teachers felt they stood out.

Jahayra Garcia-Sandoval, Hermiston High School

Being a Ford Scholar is an accomplishment only a handful of Oregon students ever know, but Jahayra Garcia-Sandoval is one of Hermiston’s two this year.

“Because of that, I’ll be able to go to the University of Portland,” Garcia-Sandoval said.

Garcia-Sandoval made it through several rounds of interviews and applications, and was one of 105 students selected from an original pool of about 6,000 applicants. The Hermiston High School senior will now graduate, and plans to study business at University of Portland in the fall.

Hard work has defined Garcia-Sandoval’s high school career. She has spent time volunteering for school clubs and groups — her favorite, she said, was working as a counselor at Outdoor School. She joined the College Savings Group and the Generation College program as a sophomore to learn about what steps she should take after high school, and how to earn money for college.

She also worked at Atkinson Staffing during the summers, and at American Printing, a local print shop, during the school year.

She will now graduate with honors, and looks forward to the next chapter in her life.

“I’d like to get good grades in college, and meet a lot of new people,” she said.

She said while she loves Hermiston, she’s not sure where she wants to end up, and is excited about living in the city. She hopes to eventually pursue a career in accounting.

Justin Maret, Umatilla High School

Justin Maret said his parents were the main driving force in his desire to succeed in school. When his father died in October, he was devastated. But he didn’t let the obstacle stand in his way of graduation.

“They always wanted me to do well, and be good in school,” he said.

Maret will graduate from Umatilla High School this year as a four-year athlete in basketball, football and track, a robotics student and a member of the National Honor Society. He will attend Eastern Oregon University in the fall, and wants to pursue a career in nursing.

“I want to be a nurse practitioner,” he said. “Those are the people I’d always go see when I was younger, and I was fascinated by that.”

Maret said while he’s not sure where his career will take him after he graduates, he’s fond of his hometown.

“I’d like to come back,” he said.

Ryan Bailey, Stanfield Secondary School

Ryan Bailey graduated high school this week — and simultaneously completed enough credits to start college as a junior in the fall.

He will enter Eastern Oregon University in the fall, a campus where he has already been a familiar face.

“My freshman and sophomore years, I went to Eastern Oregon University and did a summer program, and got 10 credits each time,” he said. “Then last summer, I took classes online through BMCC, and took online classes during the school year as well. I took everything our school has to offer.

Bailey said the main motivation to get ahead before college started was to save money.

“Especially looking into college this year and seeing how expensive it is,” he said.

With 97 credits under his belt, Bailey will attend EOU and study politics and economics, with a goal of eventually attending law school.

Bailey is also a four-year basketball and baseball player, and had hoped to continue sports in college, but it didn’t work out.

“I’m just going to focus on getting my education,” he said.

Bailey hopes to stay in Eastern Oregon near his parents, older brother and sister, whom he credits with encouraging him to succeed in high school.

“I really wanted to make them proud,” he said.

Miriam Mendoza, Echo School

Miriam Mendoza spoke no English when she started high school, but four years later, she’s easily chatting with peers and staff.

“I came to Echo from Mexico,” she said. “It took me two years to pick up the language.”

She said that while it was really difficult and sometimes frustrating, she took classes and worked on her language skills to become fluent.

Now, Mendoza will graduate from Echo School and plans to move to Hermiston or Boardman for work. Once she turns 21, she has another goal in mind.

“I want to go to the academy to train to be a police officer,” she said.

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