Three years ago, about 200 then-sophomores converged on the new Campo Verde High School campus in Gilbert.
They came from other Gilbert Unified School District campuses like Highland High and Mesquite High. They came from area private schools.
All spent one year — their freshmen years — at the bottom of the high school food chain.
But since then, they’ve been the leaders, trendsetters and “upperclassmen” at Campo Verde High. And in less than two weeks, they’ll make up the school’s first graduating class.
Campo Verde opened with freshmen and sophomores in 2009. On May 24, 262 students will cross the field of Coyote Stadium, move their tassels and toss their caps as graduates.
They will join thousands of other East Valley students who will graduate in the next few weeks as the Class of 2012 says goodbye to high school.
Without a class of students above them, the Campo Verde seniors said they kind of had to “wing it” in terms of figuring out what to do this year.
“It was good and bad,” Scarlet Schreiner, 18, said about being the school’s first senior class. “We didn’t have to worry about upper classmen, but we didn’t have any role models.”
Being the first meant that the students not only got to come up with ideas for the types of clubs on campus, they got to be the leaders right away, said senior Paige Stokes, 18.
Victoria Dodev, 16, said she realized it last summer when she started filling out college applications. Then, there was the acceptance letter.
“That’s the big thing that made senior year real for me,” she said.
The reality of it really being senior year hit last month when the school held its first prom, Paige said.
For Scarlet, it was picking up the green caps and gowns.
“I remember going with a few friends and thinking, ‘Wow, these are our caps and gowns. It is so weird,’” she said. “I think it was cool to see the look on the younger classmen’s face.’”
The packaging said, “graduation.”
“It was like an advertisement to the world, ‘We did it!’” Paige said.
As high school started, Scarlet recalls, “Everyone told us, ‘It’s going to go by so fast. Don’t take anything for granted.’ But we said, ‘Yeah, right. That’s still four years ago.’ Now it’s here and oh, it went by so fast.”
Paige, Scarlet and Victoria said they hope they’ve helped set an example for future senior classes at the school, especially in the way students of all ages have come together.
“I really hope the juniors and sophomores carry that on and get to know those younger classes. It gives our school that close-knit feel to it,” Scarlet said.
Renee Regoli, assistant principal and athletic director at Campo Verde, praised the students.
“This will always be a special class because it’s the first,” she said. “I was a dean for two years at Highland (High School). The only difference is that Highland has long-standing traditions that we are just beginning to develop at Campo Verde. These kids all came from different schools as freshmen and came together to become Campo Verde Class of 2012. It’s an exciting time for everyone at Campo Verde.”
The three girls — among the school’s top in academics and community service — have all set different paths. Paige plans to attend ASU to study biomedical engineering (Campo has a biomedical program she’s been involved with for three years). Scarlet wanted a smaller college. In August, she’ll move to Arkansas to attend Harding University, where she’ll study missions and nursing.
Victoria, whose family comes from Bulgaria, will start her international relations and law studies at George Washington University in Washington D.C., in the fall.
Besides the first prom, the first senior banquet and the first graduation ceremony, the Campo Verde seniors will also take part in the first “Project Graduation.” On May 23, participating seniors will be locked into the campus all night for an evening of games, food and fun. At 7 a.m. May 24, they’ll participate in graduation practice. Then — if they can contain their excitement — it’s home for a rest before the actual ceremony that night.
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