Wisdom High School senior offers a peek into graduation day

Producing a yearbook is never an easy task.

But for Leslee Cruz—a senior at Wisdom High School and editor of that school’s yearbook—the 2020-2021 school yearbook was harder than ever. Chronicling a school year with masked smiles, six feet of distance, virtual learning, and all the other interruptions the school year had was a unique—and difficult—task to undertake.

“With the yearbook, it was a lot of taking control because I was the leader and having to tell everyone how to move forward. It was definitely a bit suffocating at times when all I had was my computer and my room,” she said. “But it was good to have that because it kept me focused on school.”

Cruz said that it was “difficult to adapt” to online school at first, but she “made do” and finished her time with HISD strong. On Friday, she walked across the stage at Wisdom High School’s graduation, third in her class.

“I’ve been preparing for graduation and college since the moment I entered school,” she said. “I knew that was going to help me move forward in life, and help my family move forward.”

Cruz, a first-generation US citizen, is a product of HISD, attending Stevens Elementary, Pilgrim Academy, and Wisdom High School.

Her hard work—the child of a single mom, caring for her younger siblings—was recognized by none other than Interim Superintendent Dr. Grenita Lathan, who awarded Cruz with one of the Superintendent Scholars Awards for $2,500.

“Being recognized for all that work—especially when sometimes you can be in your own head and it can be kind of difficult to see how far you’ve come—to have someone from the outside tell you you’re doing great, it’s like a moment of reflection,” she said. Cruz plans to use that money to attend Trinity University in San Antonio, to major in psychology.

“I pay attention to a lot of the behaviors of my friends around me,” Cruz said. “I see how we can come from similar backgrounds—first generation, strict parents—but we all end up different. And I think that’s very interesting.”

And for Cruz, the obstacles make graduation even more of a momentous achievement.

“I’m really happy that I got to have this experience, as weird as it was,” she said. “Freshman year, we had Hurricane Harvey and now this year we have COVID. Even though it’s not the typical High School Musical life, it’s still an experience I’m really grateful to have had.”