Swan Song: From Nothing to Everything


Wendy Rodriguez

A photo of the writer next to the Godinez Fundamental High School (GFHS) mascot. Picture taken on September 15, 2021.

Wendy Rodriguez, Editor-in-Chief

When people think of high school, there is not one clear image but many interpretations and different things that one looks forward to during these life-changing four years.

Being in my last year, high school was the best and most pleasant surprise of my life.

I came to Godinez Fundamental High School (GFHS) not knowing what to expect. The transition from middle school to high school was traumatizing.

Although I always had a “dream school” in mind, I never really put too much thought into it. As a freshman, my expectations were fairly low. Truthfully, I did not see myself going to a four year university after high school. I thought it was nearly impossible, especially for someone like me with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) on file.

This plan was tailored to my academic needs to address a learning deficit I’ve had since elementary school. It helped me with extra support in my classes when needed.

I did not participate in any clubs or activities at school and was taking classes an average freshman would take. Adapting to this new environment was difficult and to top that, I did not know where anything was located, therefore, making it harder to find help.

It’s probably safe to say that most of us were like that our freshman year.

Freshman year quickly came to a finish and I learned a lot about my personal qualities such as strengths and weaknesses, work habits, and overall attitude.

The following school year, my mindset changed. I started to prioritize my education more. That meant taking more rigorous and challenging courses, daily visits to see my counselor, and putting myself out there by taking a new class.

I joined journalism which was a class full of seniors. It was intimidating, but not only did I fit in, I thrived. I came prepared from day one ready to learn good journalism and I had everyone on their toes by getting the hard and real stories and having current events ready every morning. My adviser, Joyce Feuerborn, was patient and flexible with me as I learned the process of composing good articles.

Being in journalism allowed me to capture student life and challenged me to further familiarize myself with the campus.

All year long, I sat in the front, at a table full of senior boys and towards the end of the year, they were clamoring to write articles with me because I was so thorough with my writing. I ended up writing a breaking news story on the closing of school with former senior, Mario Campos. As we all learned to “stay safe” at home, Campos and I learned we had won an award for our breaking news article.

In addition to participating in the newspaper, I joined the Associated Student Body (ASB) Senate and School Site Council. I enjoyed being a part of ASB Senate because I had the opportunity to meet new people, make posters, and decorate the sophomore hallway for Homecoming Spirit Week. Likewise, School Site Council allowed me to see how the school spends their money.

Sophomore year was going great.

Until March 13, 2020, the day that changed our lives in a matter of minutes with principal, Jesse Church’s announcement on the intercom. Although I was in complete disbelief, I was hopeful because I knew that we would return soon.

But, the “four week break” quickly turned into a year full of fear, chaos, discomfort, and sadness. I eventually, like every other student, had to accept this as my new reality.

Right when the pandemic hit, my brother tested positive for COVID-19. We thought the worse possible thing which put my family on alert. Living in a household of eight family members, it was difficult to quarantine one person in one room.

We went through a lot together, alone together.

— Wendy Rodriguez

During the month that he was quarantined in his room, I was his “nurse.” I checked up on him every hour taking safety precautions: putting on a mask, gloves, and hand sanitizer. I was responsible for making and bringing him food.

Despite that, I still made my education a priority even though it was optional to attend. I joined my teachers’ Zoom classes, completed their assignments, and built meaningful connections.

Then junior year was nothing like it should have been–attending school events, seeing familiar faces in the hallways, creating lifelong memories with my friends, and finally being able to sit on the good side with the better view of pep rallies, just disappeared.

From constant internet problems and noise at home to following a steady routine, I knew it would be challenging to meet all my expectations without physically being at school nor having that one-on-one connection with my teachers and peers.

I was extremely nervous on the first day of school because I had a busy schedule tackling three Advanced Placement classes, one dual enrollment course, and being the new editor-in-chief for The Grizzly Gazette.

This was also the year I decided to expand my skills in journalism to broadcasting. I enjoyed the platform of both writing articles and making videos.

It was hard to keep up with the momentum of my classes, but overall, it was going well–that is until things became so uncertain for my family and I.

My grandmother became very ill which in turn led me to lose complete focus and fall behind on my school work.

For exactly two months, my after school routine consisted of drives to my uncle’s house to see my grandma. That came to an end when she passed away.

Her loss took an extreme toll on my mental health and school life but losing her taught me to not take for granted the time I have with my loved ones.

To help cope with her loss, former Assistant Principal Ngoc Tran referred me to therapy where I found that, “things get better with time.”

Despite many unique challenges and a heartbreaking loss, I completed my junior year of high school with straight A’s, obtained a paid summer internship, and even came out of my shell to run for ASB Senate President (and won!).

A photo of the writer next to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) mascot. She will attend UCLA in the fall. Picture taken on April 9, 2022. (Wendy Rodriguez)

Change is no longer a monster I fear as I once did. All of these experiences have allowed me to grow through challenges and adversities to achieve personal self growth and accomplishments that I am now proud to share.

After going through an entire school year online, I was excited to start my senior year in person, masks and all. Social interaction was what I needed, what everyone needed, after being isolated for almost two years.

Although it was hard adjusting to a “normal” high school environment again and setting up a new routine for myself, that did not stray me away from achieving my goals.

I focused on academics, but also made sure to have fun. I attended many school games and shouted so loud I lost my voice the day after multiple times.

This year, in the wake of my journalism adviser’s absence due to illness, I took on an even larger role beyond editor-in-chief. I made several announcements daily during class to make sure everyone was on task all while copy editing articles and uploading them onto our online newspaper.

In addition to that, I occasionally anchored the morning broadcast and even produced news reports.

One of the first videos I created was the  “Welcome to Godinez Fundamental High School” which was difficult: getting footage around school, making a script and interviewing staff.

And, I won 11 Best of School Newspapers Online (SNO) awards during my three years in journalism. But, it is not all about the awards.

Writing articles and producing videos is about making sure everyone’s voices are heard because as they say in the newsroom, “everybody has a story.”

This year proved to be stressful, managing my anxiety, applying to colleges and competing for scholarships, while juggling classes and extracurriculars. But, I held on to my grit and tenacity.

Overall, my experience at GFHS was by far the most memorable and I will truly miss every aspect of it.

To the underclassmen, trust me when I say these four years fly by. Start preparing yourself for life after high school, take advantage of every opportunity there is, and lastly, have fun! You only have a high school experience once.

I am very grateful to the faculty at Godinez and several other mentors who have given me unconditional love and support to get me where I am today.

A huge shout out to the higher education coordinator, Jimmy Bravo, my counselor Michelle Holguin, my case manager Walter Nixon, and my journalism adviser, Feuerborn, for all the help these past four years.

I am attending the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in the fall and look forward to a new experience, a fresh start. I hope to become a special education teacher or school counselor and help others, like me, reach their long term goals.

And a big goal is to come back to Santa Ana, perhaps GFHS.

To be able to attend my dream school still seems surreal. Although it seemed impossible my freshman year, it was definitely possible. I did not give up and instead, persevered.

For my teachers and classmates, I hope I am remembered as the girl who went for everything.

And to the class of 2022, congratulations! We did it!

All the hard work and tears got you to this moment. Whether you are joining the workforce, military, going to community college, or attending a four year university, be proud of yourself for getting to this moment, during a pandemic and everything.

We went through a lot together, sometimes alone and together. But, we came out stronger out of every challenge we endured.

What a memorable four years it has been.