The books were stacked high against Elizabeth Carrillo.

A teen mother, Carrillo had a nearly impossible time staying in school until she enrolled in Shadow Ridge Learning Center, a home study-based alternative education program in Hesperia.

"Shadow Ridge has helped me a lot," said Carrillo, who was one of two senior speakers at the joint graduation ceremony for Shadow Ridge and Canyon Ridge on Monday. "Before I came here I was always dropping out of school."

But Carrillo, who plans on pursuing a nursing career at Victor Valley College, had something special that propelled her forward.

"I have a daughter," she said. "It's because of her that I've graduated from school. I have fixed my mistakes and graduated from high school. If I can do it anyone can do it."

Houda "Dina" Afra, the senior speaker representing Canyon Ridge, also shared an emotional story.

"Before I came to Canyon Ridge I was doing horribly in school," said Afra, who couldn't hold back tears. "The teachers were always there when I needed them. I feel if Canyon Ridge can help me that it can help anyone will to give time and effort."

The heartfelt testimonies of Afra and Carrillo represented 136 graduates (76 from Canyon Ridge and 60 from Shadow Ridge) with similar tales.

"I always tell my instructors to treat everyone like they could do anything. We never know when that one person that will change the world is in front of us," said principal Bill Pittsford.

With that mindset the Canyon Ridge program has expanded rapidly.

"It's been an exciting school year at Canyon Ridge and Shadow Ridge. We've grown from that little red school house of 100 students and five teachers in October of 2007 to a school of several programs and well over 450 students."

The featured speaker was Adolph Kuhn, an 88-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor who shared his story of survival and service to country.

"I'm the 9th one of 12 kids," said Kuhn who grew up on a Kansas farm. "I never had new clothes until I joined the Navy."

The night of Dec. 6 was about as pleasant as any as the 6'4" sailor attended a dance in Honolulu. But at 7:48 the next morning everything changed when a Japanese torpedo tore through the U.S.S. Arizona.

Then came the kamikazis.

"We could see the rings and the wrist watches on the pilots' hands."

Kuhn, who was greeted by a standing ovation, shared how he made it out of the water and darted across a verdant golf course wearing a white Navy uniform.

"What a target I was."

But he dodged the bullets and made it to shelter.

Then he saw one vessel go down.

"It looked just like a harpooned whale."

Somehow, Kuhn survived and helped carry out the wounded.

Three scholarships were presented during the graduation. Diane Rodriguez, who represented the Supporters of Principals, Administrators, Managers & Supervisors (SPAMS), presented a $200 scholarship to Shadow Ridge graduate Kaitlyn Franquez. Roxanne Williams of the Hesperia Kiwanis presented Franquez with a $250 scholarship. School board member Lee Rogers presented graduate Kristen Holm a scholarship on behalf of Grace-West Memorial

"We truly do consider our students our family," Rodriguez said.

The principal's final advice to students was simple and direct:

"Do what's right," he said. "Follow your heart and the truth will never get you in trouble."

Canyon Ridge Class of 2010

Houda "Dina" Afra
Alberto Arevalos
Tyler Banttari
Lakwana Bell
Gilberto Beltran
Katherine Calvillo
Melissa Cardona
Carlos Ceron
Jayvonne Clark
Breeann Cole
Christian Corona
Jose Corona
Evan Doan
Francisco Dorado
Melany Escorcia
Brenda Estrada
Payton Fields
Horacio Flores
Keyontae Glasper
Jessica Guevara
Dahshae Harris
Brianne Hawn
Danielle Henry
Guillermo Hernandez
Pablo Hernandez
Kristen Holm
Anthony Hurd
Marisol Ibanez
Angel Jimarez
Alfonso Juarez
Joseph Klukaczynski
Nicholas Kosareff
Lisa Leal
Ryon Lewis
Francis Mariano
Daniel Marron
John Martinez

Leo Martinez
Olivia Mendoza
Eric Miner
Elizabeth Nichols
Kevin Nolasco Gomez
Amy Northcutt
Kevin Nolasco Gomez
Amy Northcutt
Liza Orozco
Manuel Ortega
Alex Palacios
Christopher Palacios
Amy Pereda
Amanda Pesquiera
Evelyn Pinto
Marisela Prieto
Daniel Rask
Zeyda Rodriguez
Desiree Rodriguez Leon
Alex Rojas
Anthony Ruelas
Jeromy Ryan
Almarosa Salcedo
Yessica Saldivar
Marvin Santos
Mirna "Alicia" Segura
Ruben Segura
AnaAmelia Silva
Francisca Sorto
Dominic Tippery
Ruben Topete
Zulema Trejo
Jose Trujillo
Kenneth Ugarte
Justin Valenzona
Gilbert Vargas
Quinteria Wilborn
Shaniqua Wilson

Shadow Ridge Class of 2010


Mark Avery
Juan Balderas
Cody Bennison
Amanda Broussard
Edwin Buenrostro
Vanessa Camacho
Anthony Camp Jimenez
Octavio Cardona
Elizabeth Carrillo
Ricardo Casas
Joshua Collis
Angelique DiGiovanni
Corrina Escobedo
Adriana Flores
Christy Flores
Andrea Francescon
Kaitlyn Franquez
Ingrid Garcia Smith
Sarah Garlinghouse-Davis
Vanessa Gomez
Francisco Gonzales
Kyle Gravelle
Angel Hayes
Skylee Hayes
Betsaida Hodge
Andrea Howell
Daniel Huston
Angelica Lagano

Chris Larson
Rafael Leon
Jovany Lomeli
Lorraine Mejia
Gizzel Monterrosa
Guadalupe Montoya
Maribel Montoya
Jose Munoz
Jennifer Murillo
Sawntreace Murphy
Anna Nguyen
Jessie Ortega
Diego Padilla
Tatiana Polland Wimer
Nicholas Ramirez
Mirna Raya
Armando Rodriguez
Jonathan Rodriguez
Sierra Rick
Alexander Rola
Jacob Romero
Meaghan Ruiz
James Rutan
Alex Salamanca
Edward Salas
Gerard Salas
Rosaura Sanchez
Miguel Uriza
Isaias Valenzuela
Jaime Velasquez
Ronea Washington
Yohana Zarate