Nov 20, 2012 7:32 PM by Nikki Ibarra

Santa Maria High School alums return to campus, hope to inspire students to aim high

About 100 graduates of Santa Maria High School returned to their alma mater Tuesday. It was all part of the first "March of the Saints Alumni Day."

Students and graduates from top universities in the country including, Harvard, UCLA and UC Berkeley spoke to high school students about the importance of a higher education.

"I'm a graduate of UCLA," aid Didiana Ramirez, who graduated from Santa Maria in 2007.

"I graduated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education," said Norma Salazar, class of 2004.

"I'm a student at UCSB," said Evanibaldo Lopez, a 2011 graduate.

"I want to attend UCLA," said Maria Montano, a senior at Santa Maria.

Montano believes a higher education i sher ticket to bigger and better things. "You're doing it for yourself but you're also doing it for your family and family is important to me. I also have younger siblings and I just want to set a good example for them as well," added Montano.

UCSB student, Evanibaldo Lopez, is the first one in his family to go to college. "To me like, my family instilled in my like education is like something no one can take from you," said Lopez.

About 20% of the class of 2012 went straight to a four-year college or university. Santa Maria school officials hope by 2018, that percentage will jump to 90%.

"Just seeing my parents work so hard I said, how awesome would it be, you know, to be able to say, you know, I'm a college graduate when my parents are farm workers. They've worked in the fields their whole life," said Norma Salazar.

Salazar graduated from Harvard, and she hopes to break the stereotype that sometimes comes with being a Santa Maria High graduate. "We're perceived as a school with very low expectation but a lot of us are succeeding and doing really great things out in the work force and going on to amazing schools," added Salazar.

Regardless of these stereotypes, students like Maria Montano, are ready to break the mold. "It's really cool that they come and they show us that, you know, you can do it. Just because you come from a small town or Santa Maria, you can do big things," said Montano.



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