A third class graduates USC Hybrid High, stronger than ever

June 18, 2018

All 118 seniors are college-bound, with $3.2 million in confirmed grants and scholarships

By Diane Krieger

USC Hybrid High graduate Arianna Brown sings the national anthem at her school’s commencement ceremony. Brown is heading to Vassar College in the fall. (Photo/Margaret Molloy for USC Rossier)

There’s sibling rivalry … and then there’s crosstown sibling rivalry.

Come September, Addison Arnold will be a Trojan while his twin, Anaya, will become a Bruin. But no “House Divided” flag will ever wave over the South-Central family home. The twins refuse to let school pride come between them.

“We’ll help each other out,” Anaya vowed.

“We’re getting the best of both worlds,” Addison agreed. “We’ll have the connections from both campuses.”

The spirit of “positive multigenerational change”—the driving force behind USC Hybrid High School College Prep—runs strong in the Arnold twins, who graduated from the school in a ceremony at USC on June 9.

Founded in 2012 by USC Rossier, the fast-rising charter school graduated its third class on Saturday. With $3.2 million in confirmed first-year grants and scholarships, all 118 seniors from the Class of 2018 are college-bound, matching the 100 percent graduation rate and college acceptance rate of the first two USC Hybrid High senior classes.

In it together

Incoming Trojan Addison Arnold, right, with sister Anaya Arnold. In her remarks as a student speaker, Anaya told her fellow graduates, “There will be times when each of us thinks he or she is alone—our backs against a wall. But we are not alone.” (Photo/Margaret Molloy for USC Rossier)

As the Hybrid High seniors filed into Bovard Auditorium in their burgundy caps and gowns, ecstatic cheers and whistles drowned out “Pomp and Circumstance.”

Addressing the graduates, Maria Ott, a professor of clinical education at USC Rossier and a board member of Ednovate—the charter management organization founded by USC Rossier to oversee USC Hybrid High and four other schools—told them that no accomplishment was out of reach.

“You only have one turn. Live it well,” Ott said. “Live it fully and cherish every moment. And do all you can do to make your community, state, nation and this world a better place.”

Valedictorian Aléjandra Ruelas spoke passionately about her family. Mom had left school after sixth grade in Mexico, and dad had dropped out of high school to work. “I’m often reminded of my privilege in having access to a better education,” Ruelas said. “This is why I am up on this podium.” She has held the top GPA in her class for four straight years, and plans to attend UC Berkeley in the fall.

According to director of college counseling Takirah Crenshaw, two-thirds of the Class of 2018 chose to attend California public universities, and one-fifth will go to California community colleges. While all USC Hybrid High grads were admitted to four-year colleges this year, 25 have opted to begin their undergraduate studies at a two-year institution. Fifteen others will go to private universities, including Vassar, NYU, Loyola Marymount and Tuskegee College. And three students will be going to USC, joining seven 2017 graduates and five graduates from 2016.

Jubilation

Delcia Samuels, mother to Addison and Anaya, wasn’t prepared for the flood of emotions triggered by the ceremony.

“This is unbelievable,” she said, as she watched her children pose for pictures with family members afterward. “I can’t even explain the feelings that came over me. I did not think this day would come at all.” The twins, she explained, had been born more than three months early, each with a birthweight under two pounds. They spent their first three months of life in a neonatal unit, and it wasn’t a sure thing that they would survive, let alone grow into healthy, accomplished honors students. Addison will study neuroscience at USC Dornsife College, and Anaya will pursue biology at UCLA. Both hope to be physicians someday.

Emotions ran deep elsewhere, too.

Eyes gleaming, a jubilant Mary Salazar, the class salutatorian, clasped her bouquet of red roses and handsome diploma as family members huddled for photos after the ceremony. The child of Salvadoran immigrants, Salazar was active in many community service organizations throughout high school. She received five college admission offers and almost $82,000 in total grants and scholarships toward freshman year.

“I was very nervous,” she admitted. “I kept thinking I was going to mess up or trip. But in the end, everything went well.”

For graduate Dinajreeah Morrah, reality hadn’t quite sunk in.

“I still can’t believe it,” the South Central resident said, laughing. “It feels like I’m going to have to go to high school next year.”

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