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Holtville High graduating senior Inez Rosales (left) and valedictorian Abigail Garewal gathered with their classmates in their caps and gowns on Wednesday, June 2 at the campus gymnasium to have their pictures taken. | JULIO MORALES PHOTO

Viking Grads Find Drive to Excel

Despite Challenging Year, Students Forge Ahead as Holtville High Class of 2021 Graduates on Thursday Night, June 3.

HOLTVILLE — Despite the 2020-2021 school year having what Holtville High senior Inez Rosales called a rather “lackluster ending,” the same could not be said about her academic accomplishments for the year.

Indeed, the 18-year-old El Centro resident was the recipient of multiple awards and scholarships during the Class of 2021’s senior awards banquet at the campus’ gymnasium on May 25.

Holtville High graduating senior Inez Rosales smiles in her cap and gown on Wednesday, June 2 at the campus gymnasium. | JULIO MORALES PHOTO

That night, Rosales took home scholarships from the Claddagh Club, Imperial Valley Masonic Lodge, MANA of Imperial Valley, Woman’s Club of Holtville, C-Solar/Tenaska and ConEdison.

She was also among the 18 Holtville High seniors who finished the year with a grade-point average at or above 4.0 and who received a gold medal for their achievement.

“I’m happy with the work I did and where I’m heading off to,” said Rosales, who this fall will be attending the University of California, Irvine, where she plans to major in mechanical engineering.

This year, 127 Holtville High seniors will receive their diplomas on Thursday evening, June 3, capping an end to a school year where the COVID-19 pandemic upended many traditional school activities and memories for graduating seniors.

As for Rosales, she will be leaving behind the high school’s robotics team, where she served as its captain during her senior year and which she credited for making her want to study mechanical engineering.

She also said she is keenly aware that she will be pursuing a field of study that has generally attracted more male than female university students.

Rosales said she had already gotten an advance glimpse of that gender disparity during her time in high school robotics competitions, where she said it was not uncommon to see teams comprised entirely of male students.

Yet, the first-generation college-bound student said she is ready for any challenges she may face and is already considering going on to earn a doctorate degree.

“I have my goals set,” she said. “I’m excited for what’s next.”

Like Rosales, fellow Holtville High graduating senior Abigail Garewal is not easily deterred from her goals, either. The number of academic awards that the 18-year-old Holtville resident received during the seniors’ awards banquet proved just that.

Those awards included a silver community service award for her 74 hours of service, the California Department of Education’s Seal of Biliteracy, the Golden State Seal Merit Diploma, high honors in the campus’ dual-language immersion program as well as the completion of the courses that are required for eligibility for a California university.

Holtville High graduating senior and class of 2021 valedictorian Abigail Garewal smiles in her cap and gown on Wednesday, June 2 inside the campus gymnasium. | JULIO MORALES PHOTO

The soon-to-be Stanford University biology major was also among Holtville High’s top-20 performing students, itself a reflection of one of her longtime goals: to be named class valedictorian.

“I’ve been working for this for a really long time, so I feel relieved that I was finally able to reach my goal,” Garewal said.

As valedictorian, she has the privilege of addressing her peers during their graduation on June 3. Her remarks will have capped one of the most difficult school years she said she has encountered during her formal education.

Garewal said she hopes to pursue a career in the medical or public health field. Her interest in that sector was prompted by an internship at the El Centro Regional Medical Center, as well as a research project that she and some of her classmates had conducted about local air quality and its impact on local rates of respiratory disease.

In November 2019, Garewal was part of a winning team of students, known as the Salton Sea Pollution Patrol, who won a total of $10,000 from the nationwide Lexus Eco-Challenge. The students’ project involved testing of the Salton Sea’s water quality and highlighting the public health risks associated with higher levels of windblown dust.

Garewal conceded that prior to her participation in the research project, she was largely unaware of the potential public health risks posed by the Salton Sea’s receding shoreline.

“That led me to be a lot more interested and just more aware of what’s going on, so that’s why I want to pursue that type of career,” she said.

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