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The long and winding road to a high school diploma is a unique journey for everyone involved.

For some, the formative high school years are a breeze – they are able to achieve success with minimal hurdles and obstacles hampering their strides. For others, reaching the finish line and receiving that slip of paper is a defining life moment.

There were stories on both ends of the spectrum for the approximately 260 Columbus High School graduates who started new chapters in their lives on Sunday afternoon surrounded by friends and family in the school’s main gymnasium.

Addressing the hundreds in attendance, soon-to-be graduate Trey Irving spoke about the ups and downs that led him to that particular moment in his life. It’s a moment he didn’t believe was possible until about a year ago.

Irving acknowledged that school wasn’t something that came easily to him, or more or less, he just didn’t really care all the way up to his junior year.

He was expelled from school as a freshman, landing him at the alternative school in Fremont and behind on school credits. Eventually, though, he was able to rejoin the Columbus Public Schools District and decided it was time to buckle down.

“I was pretty much done with my junior year still working on freshman credits,” Irving said while addressing those in attendance. “Now it’s my senior year, and I’ve had to work so hard to make it to where I am. I’ve come a long ways, and I’m really glad with the progress I’ve made.”

Irving and several others shared their thoughts and words of advice with their graduating peers. Other speakers included Class President Jayden Boesch, Britney Stephanie de Leon, Vasco Citta and Elizabeth Blaser.

One student who didn’t address those gathered at commencement, but who was undoubtedly listening with keen ears, was Christopher Riveros Rodriguez. The 17-year-old graduate faced his own adversity to make it to Sunday with his classmates and friends.

One psychology course nearly kept him from walking across the stage with his peers. But, he was able to resolve the issue in enough time to ensure he could graduate.

“Honestly, it feels pretty amazing,” Riveros Rodriguez said prior to commencement. “It’s been really a struggle, but it’s all well done, I made it to graduation and I’m walking. Which is really a big honor, just for me to walk.”

Riveros Rodriguez moved to Columbus from Florida in 2015 and slowly got integrated in the CPS system. He said that it took some time, but that he “eventually started to enjoy the Columbus experience.”

That experience, he said, was the vertical climb that led him to the summit of the mountain that Sunday represented.

Joining Riveros Rodriguez at the peak was classmate Anna Maurer. Maurer didn’t ever have the concern of not graduating, but during her last year she did undergo some stress trying to wrestle down a good grade in calculus.

“I didn’t really struggle, but some of the classes I took were really hard,” Maurer said. “So, I really do have a feeling of accomplishment just getting here.”

Maurer noted that it was a bit of a surreal experience being there on her own graduation day. The time just sped by.

“It doesn’t seem real, I still feel like a freshman sometimes – or a sophomore or junior,” she said. “It doesn’t feel like I should be the one walking.”

But she was walking. And so was Riveros Rodriguez and Irving and all of their peers. Watching Riveros Rodriguez was his mother, father and four sisters.

Having his family present to see him make it was perhaps the best part of his day. He was especially happy that his younger siblings were in attendance.

“I’m just trying to shape their future and give them a good standpoint of what they should try to do when they get older,” he said.

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at sam.pimper@lee.net.

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