The night was calm for Westwood High School’s commencement on Thursday. Student body president Hector Araujo greeted parents, faculty and staff saying, “Bienvenidos” — Spanish for “Welcome everybody.”
But for graduating senior Jonathan Grajales, that statement is much more than just a greeting. For him, it’s symbolic of his Hispanic heritage.
Although one of five students who delivered a speech, Grajales’ was unique. He gave his speech in English and Spanish.
“This is a great way to let people know that this is not an ordinary school,” Grajales said.
With the state’s fastgrowing Hispanic population, more and more schools are beginning to look like Westwood. Almost 40 percent of Westwood’s student population is Hispanic, according to state data.
Grajales is aware that his decision to give his speech in Spanish comes at a time when the country is increasingly tense over immigration and border security issues. But, he said, “we have to take a moment to forget our problems and be more like a family.”
Grajales said he hopes his speech will outlast Westwood’s commencement.
“We are killing ourselves. I hope more people have speeches like this to represent our country. This is a good example for all races, not just Hispanics,” Grajales said.
Aaron Keel, 25, of Mesa agreed. “It is nice to acknowledge both languages. It makes it so it isn’t so segregated,” Keel said.
John Urquijo, 50, who has lived in Mesa for 30 years said he sees Grajales’ speech as a way to include everyone.
“This is good for grandparents to come out and see the kids graduate,” Urquijo said.
Grajales’ father, Luis Pozos, was proud of his son. He said that speeches like Grajales’ will help globalization. Grajales plans to go to Scottsdale Community College or Arizona State University in the fall.