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By Eric Heinz

Four students received their high school diplomas on June 13 at the San Clemente Library. On paper, they received an official document, but look past the cursive Latin printed in Olde English calligraphy and you’ll see they’ve already received varying degrees in life.

The students were part of the first class of the Career Online High School, a program that was funded by the San Clemente Friends of the Library and facilitated by through the company Cengage Learning. The graduation in San Clemente was not the first class but the first ceremony in OC Libraries program’s history.

Students who attend are 19 years old or older and obtained at least an eighth-grade education. They also need to have a library card in good standing condition and record. Students are paired with a “career coach,” with a board-certified curriculum. The courses cost $1,000 for 18 months, and the degree is equivalent to a full diploma.
San Clemente graduates had to be either a resident or work within the city to attend this branch’s courses. The COHC Class of 2018 for San Clemente was Gilbert Avila, who was the valedictorian, Michael Leach, William Lhommedieu, and Joel Santiago.

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In front of family, friends and staff members of the library, a visibly emotional but confident Avila gave the traditional graduation speech.

“My entire life I can remember my mother say, ‘It’s never too late,’” Avila said. “It took me 36 years to get here…but the important thing is I made it. I watched my father work hard his entire life to provide for us the life we knew we deserved. But sadly, I lost him when I was 15. I’ve taken some wrong turns in my life, but I know he’d be proud of me. He would be proud that I never gave up.”

Avila said he was most satisfied with being able to balance his continuing work life and still go to school.

For more information about Career Online High School, visit —EH

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