A celebration of resilience

Wendy Murillo-Ojeda and Nikolis Bosnyak graduated from Renaissance High School on June 5. — Johanna Miller/Register-Pajaronian

WATSONVILLE — For Nikolis Bosynak, high school has been a whirlwind. He moved around to seven schools in just a few years, and until enrolling at Renaissance High School, nothing had been the right fit.

“Renaissance was my last school, and most definitely the best,” Bosynak said. “I love it here. It’s been an amazing experience.”

Renaissance High School (RHS) is the Pajaro Valley Unified School District’s only continuation high school, established in 1971. Students are given one-on-one attention, focusing on helping the students meet their credit requirements and offering counseling.

Bosynak said the counseling was a big help—and singled out counselor Matt Merrill as his biggest support.

“Matt has had an impact on everyone here,” he said. “I’ve been in really bad states—from the brink of collapsing in on myself. And he’s brought me out of it. He’s been that person I can always depend on. I want to be like him someday.”

Bosnyak’s classmate, Wendy Murillo-Ojeda, agreed about the school’s supportive staff.

“It’s been really good here [at Renaissance],” she said. “I’ve enjoyed it.”

On June 5, RHS graduates celebrated commencement at the Henry J. Mello Center for the Performing Arts in Watsonville. Friends, family, along with RHS staff and faculty packed the venue to acknowledge the students’ accomplishments. Three students—Marlene Peña, Angeles Rodriguez and Juan Valencia were chosen as this year’s student speakers. Counselor Robert Ehrlich, who assists students at Renaissance in college preparation, addressed the graduates before handing out awards and scholarships. He emphasized that they not let their pasts determine their futures.

“I’ve known people who graduated and went right into a four-year university, but aren’t doing anything now,” he said. “And I also know people who were in gangs… who now have their Master’s Degree. Don’t let anyone tell you that who you’ve been is who you’ll always be.”

RHS graduation web

Renaissance High School seniors file into the Henry J. Mello Center on June 5 for their school’s graduation ceremony. — Johanna Miller/Register-Pajaronian

As for Bosynak, he plans to enroll at Cabrillo College and eventually transfer to a University of California school to study child development psychology (inspired, he said, by Merrill). He added that he’s become interested in fashion and wants to travel to Japan and Korea to see their unique designs firsthand.

“It’s a new development,” Bosynak said. “I’ve just grown to really love colors, and the way everyone is built different. Fashion is a kind of expression.”

For Murillo-Ojeda, a summer job follows graduation. She looks forward to her independence and says she someday wants to visit Paris, France.

“It looks really nice—I’d love to see it in person,” she said.

Before receiving their diplomas on June 5, Assistant Superintendent of Secondary and Alternative Education Kristen Shouse asked students to turn around and acknowledge their families for their support. Though for many students, the staff and teachers at RHS were just as much to thank.

“There’s nothing like having someone actually listen, and care about you,” Bosynak said. “If you can offload that onto someone without your problems being automatically dismissed—it has such a big impact.”

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