High school students planning late-morning protest today at District offices for graduation changes

Several students from Newport Harbor High School are organizing a peaceful protest, following safe-distancing protocols and encouraging masks, today at 11 a.m. while calling for “in-person” graduation. The protest is being organized to take place in front of the Newport-Mesa School District offices at 2985 Bear St., Costa Mesa.

Last week the District announced that this year’s graduation would be done virtually, much to the chagrin of some students.

Several students penned letters to Superintendent Fred Navarro and the Board of Education Trustees to convey their thoughts. One in favor of the District’s plan and one proposing a new in-person graduation plan appear below.

Dear Superintendent Navarro and NMUSD Board of Education:

13 years. Over two-thirds of our lifetimes spent as active members of the NMUSD community. From Mariners Elementary, to Ensign Intermediate, now to graduating seniors at Newport Harbor High School, we have poured our hearts into this district. Collectively, the two of us have been involved in fundraisers, 7 clubs, 2 sports teams, Associated Student Body (ASB) officers at both Ensign Intermediate and Newport Harbor High School, 1,100 hours of community service, and have maintained GPAs above 3.8 for the entirety of our high school careers.

We feel blessed to have been a part of this community and are going to miss it dearly as we venture off into the next chapter of our lives, college. 

Up until now, we have never had a complaint about our school district. We feel extremely blessed to be students of such an involved and compassionate district that truly cares about our needs and desires. That is why we are trusting you to hear us out and act upon our wishes. 

We believe that we have earned the opportunity to be given an in-person graduation and to be celebrated, like all the classes of NHHS before us. There has only been one other class not to graduate on Davidson Field, and we do not want to be the second. 

We would also like to mention that we are fully aware of the seriousness of this pandemic. This is real, we are not denying that. However, the state and country have put guidelines in place to help us keep some form of normalcy, this being social distancing and wearing facial coverings. If we abide by these guidelines, we see no problem in a delayed graduation at Davidson Field. According to our math, we can fit 1,560 graduates on the field safely, but we only have 533. This means the football field has 3 times the required safety capacity needed to adhere by state policies. 

Our hearts have been broken and tears have been shed the past month and a half over the continuing loss/cancellation of the senior events we have worked for and looked forward to over the past 12 1/2 years. Finally, Wednesday morning we received news that our graduation would be virtual. We were not going to have a proper send-off, a chance to say goodbye to our beloved teachers or celebrate this amazing achievement with our peers. We are not alone in these feelings and share this loss with thousands of seniors across the country. 

Graduation is more than just receiving your diploma and hearing speeches, it is a milestone that represents the hard work put in to get to this point and honoring the person you have grown into throughout your journey. This ceremony brings closure to a significant chapter of our lives, and a virtual version of this does not do the milestone, or any student, justice. We believe that our dedication and achievements should be recognized through a proper in-person graduation. 

We are calling on you to use the leadership skills and creative minds that you were elected for and come up with a solution. School districts across the nation are coming up with creative ideas to celebrate their seniors, and we ask you to do the same. We urge you to consider a delayed graduation or any form of graduation where we are able to walk across our home football field together as the Class of 2020. 

Please do not underestimate the power of our community coming together as one, we can make this happen if you choose to allow it. There is no reason that we cannot make this work.

Thank you for your time and consideration and we hope you and your loved ones are staying safe and healthy through this trying time. 

Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or concerns. 


Ruby Trestik & Avery Wooden

NHHS, Class of 2020

• • •

Hi Dr. Navarro,

I wanted to let you know of this letter that I’ve written to my fellow seniors voicing my support for virtual graduation. Thank you for your efforts to help the less advantaged students through this difficult time. Feel free to share this letter.

I am writing in response to an open letter to the NMUSD board that claimed to represent the views of the class of 2020 and want to make it clear that some of us have a different view. I am in support of the NMUSD school board’s decision to hold a virtual graduation. Although this was an unpopular decision amongst many students, the need to protect our students, faculty and families continues to be a priority. I applaud the efforts of our school board to provide relief for the families who have been most impacted by the virus. Whether it’s providing free lunches, computers or wifi, they have been working tirelessly to serve our needs. While I don’t often voice my opinions, I feel our youth should be educated on the severity of the issue.

In the open letter, it was mentioned that “every single member in our community understands the magnitude of this virus” and that this has “heavily contributed to the decline in the amount of new cases everyday.” As of yesterday, May 21st, 2020, we experienced the highest number of new cases within the United States. Within just our county, the number of new COVID cases continues to rise daily at near record numbers. It seems many in our community don’t actually understand the real severity of the issue at hand. As someone who is attempting to self-isolate and follow CDC guidelines, it has become increasingly frustrating to go on social media and see large groups of my classmates gathering in crowds. I have also seen offensive remarks aimed at our state legislatures and particularly Governor Newsom. While this situation is not ideal for any of us, I often question the motivation behind this “activism”. Many will argue that they want the economy to open back up to support our businesses and to stop the rising unemployment rate. Yet many of those who complain about the economic toll of the shutdown, aren’t willing to wear masks to protect workers. Given the behaviors that I’ve witnessed first hand, I’ve come to realize that many of us simply wish to return to the luxuries of experiencing dining out, shopping trips or haircuts, but aren’t willing to do it in a responsible way. We must realize that there is a displacement of blame. We must not blame our school board for the events that have unfolded. Instead, we must work together to stop the spread and support the decision of our school board as they are doing the same.

At 18 years old, I have been forced to grow up over these past couple months. I have spent time witnessing the world around me while enjoying quality time with my family before heading off to college. With this growing up, we must realize that in hard times, it is our responsibility as healthy, financially secure, young people to make sacrifices for the benefit of our community. When it comes to the hashtag #wedeservebetter that has been circulating among my classmates, I strongly believe that we should spend more time recognizing how good we actually have it. As many of us have been blessed to live in such an affluent place, I think the people who are harder impacted by the virus are truly the ones who deserve better. I invite my classmates to reflect on their time growing up in Orange County and to understand their privilege and find peace and pride in their upbringing thus far. With growing up, we must realize that in crisis, we may not always receive the things we think we “deserve,” however we must show our true resilience by standing up and sacrificing ourselves for those who are hit harder. Although teenagers are less likely to suffer serious consequences from the coronavirus, our roles as carriers of the virus means we are ALL personally responsible for stopping the further spread of COVID-19. This will help all of us return to normalcy sooner.

The bottom line is that holding an in-person graduation will not truly satisfy our desire for normalcy in the world we live in today. However, the potential spread of the virus could only make matters worse. We have to be better than this. Within our community, there is a socially accepted idea that the need for large gatherings has outweighed the risks of contracting and spreading the disease. As seniors, I believe we are role models to students who may see these actions on social media and believe it is righteous to go against the advice of our school board, government and doctors. While a virtual graduation may not keep students from ignoring guidelines, I think that it serves as a reminder to those of us who have forgotten the severity of the issues at hand. To my classmates – we must remember that in due time we will move beyond the uncertainties of the present and return to our normal lives. In the meantime, let’s remind ourselves to be thankful.

Anna Ellis

NHHS, Class of 2020