Grads: Find your passion, serve your community


WATSONVILLE — Among more than 350 Watsonville High School seniors who graduate in June, 54 will attend California State University campuses, while 23 will go to University of California. Stanford and Yale universities snagged one WHS student each.

A total of 175 will attend Cabrillo College, and 26 plan to attend another community college. Three students will head off to the U.S. military, and 44 are undecided.

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A valedictorian, a salutatorian

Isa Moreno decided she wanted to be valedictorian when she was a freshman. She reached that goal this year, and will give the commencement address during the June 9 graduation ceremony.

Moreno, 17, will attend UC Los Angeles in the fall, where she plans to study Chicano studies and eventually earn her PhD. She hopes to return to her community.

“I want to help the students of Watsonville chase their dreams or become college graduates,” she said.

Moreno was deeply involved in the school, earning a 4.3 grade point average while participating in the Mock Trial team and in Mariposa’s Art, in which she taught performing and visual art to students at MacQuiddy, Radcliff, Starlight and Freedom elementary schools.

That role required her to grow as a leader and allowed her to gain a newfound self-confidence

Moreno said she started her time at Watsonville High closeted with her sexuality and unsure of herself.

Over her four years she said she developed a strong self-confidence, and was so involved in the school community that salutatorian Ruben Vargas jokingly referred to her as “the president of everything.” She is outspoken about her sexuality, and is serving this year as president of the school’s Straight And Gay Alliance.

During all this, Moreno said she developed a sense of social justice that now drives her as she looks forward to college.

“I realized that if you have one passion you can have an impact,” she said.

Moreno credited her parents for her success, who she called “the smartest people I know.”

When asked her advice for younger students, Moreno said she would tell them to view their education as an investment toward their future.

“One of my motivations for succeeding is to show people that the LGBT community are not simply statistics,” she said. “That we are normal and we can be intelligent and strong, and that for anyone out there who is struggling with their sexuality, just know that it’s your life and don’t let anyone else tell you who to love or who to be. You are human, and you matter.”

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Ruben Vargas got a taste for medicine when, as a child, he endured many trips to doctors’ offices to treat an arachnoid cyst on his brain.

That cyst has since shrunk and causes no issues. But his respect and drive to become a doctor has never diminished. He will attend UC Berkeley in the fall for a pre-med major. A job-shadowing program he experienced as part of the school’s Health Academy convinced him that he wants to specialize in cardiology.

Like Moreno, he wants to return to work in Watsonville.

“This community has been very supportive,” he said. “We appreciate that, and we’re going to come back and do the same.”

Vargas was involved in sports during his time at WHS, playing soccer for all four years. He played baseball in his freshman year, and volleyball in his sophomore and junior years. An injury has sidelined his sports endeavors this year.

Vargas has served as vice president of the Giving Club and the Lifeline Club and as treasurer of the College Club.


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