QCS Senior Writer
Valedictorian, salutatorian, state champions, pretty much the entire class of 2015 — along with everyone else in attendance — cheered as Principal Nicole Bright-Leslie called out Nathaniel Richard Lopez-Martinez’s name to receive his diploma Friday during the Tucumcari High School graduation at the Snake Pit.
Lopez-Martinez, is not all that different from his classmates. He has attended Tucumcari schools since pre-K, advanced through the years and earned the credits necessary to earn his diploma.
However, Lopez-Martinez has done everything his fellow seniors have done — while living with autism.
“The class of 2015 has been so supportive of Nathaniel since day one,” said Adrienne Lopez, Nathaniel’s mother.
Lopez said the students and the school system worked so well with Lopez-Martinez to accommodate his condition and help him feel like just one of the students.
Lopez said her son attended school full time, and completed the schedule of full classes that had been modified for him with the help of a his one-on-one aide Johnny Griego. She said Lopez-Martinez was integrated into the music and physical education classes as well throughout the years.
“We feel so proud of what Nathaniel ‘Nate’ has accomplished,” Lopez said. “We don’t know what is next in his life but we know he will meet it with the same determination.”
The unknown is exactly what class valedictorian Taylor Hayes, encouraged her classmates not to fear, but to embrace.
“We are starting the next chapter of our lives, just like we started high school,” Hayes said. “Scared, excited, nervous, and adjusting to a new part of life.”
Hayes said the class of 2015 members need to take their memories with them, “for they shape who they are.” She said the graduates should not let memories stand in the way of who they will become. Instead, they should let those memories help transform them.
“We’ve made it. It’s no longer a dream; we have graduated,” Hayes said.
Some of those memories Hayes spoke of in her commencement speech were shared during the class history presented by seniors Jonathan Preciado and Mercedes Vega.
“I am nervous, I have never spoken in public,” Preciado said before the ceremony.
Preciado and Vega shared tales of the seniors’ experiences as they made their way from kindergarten to their senior year. One of the memories Preciado shared was when he and fellow senior Katherine Sena shared a kiss under a table but vowed never to do it against for the fear of cooties.
Vega said the seniors always had each other as they moved forward in life. She said although they would not be together in this next step of their lives, they would always carry the memories of their times together at Tucumcari schools.