CARSON, Calif. – Working from home is nothing new for Frances Suavillo.

What You Need To Know

  • Frances Suavillo moved to the U.S. from the Phillipines with her family

  • She is grateful for access to free public education

  • Suavillo is the first person in her family to graduate from a U.S. school

  • She is thankful for her community of friends at school

The senior at Carson High School took 10 AP classes, enabling her to become the school’s Class of 2020 Valedictorian.

But when the pandemic hit, her chance of a lifetime was disrupted. The graduation ceremony was canceled.    

“I worked really hard for the past four years. I kept my grades up. I stayed active in the community. I kept my motivation going and to hear that I won’t even be able to walk the stage, deliver my speech, and thank the people who made it possible for me is really heartbreaking and I’m still trying to find a way to be OK with it all,” said Suavillo.

Born in the Philippines, Suavillo immigrated to California at the age of 9. The ceremony would have been extra special for her because she is the first in her family to graduate from a high school in the United States.

She says she cherishes her access to a free American education because that privilege was not so easy to come by in the Philippines.

“When I was younger I would just see how many kids in the Philippines would want to go to school because over there public school isn’t free either and there would be kids who would continue the generational poverty and they have no way of escaping it unless it’s through education. And coming to the United States and seeing everything given to us students on a silver platter, was a new but good change for me and I just thought about how many kids back in my country would benefit from something like this and I made sure that I never take my education for granted,” said Suavillo.

Pandemic or not, Suavillo is living her American dream. She says she is thankful for her community of friends who kept her focused and motivated throughout high school. Now, they are all helping each other stay hopeful through all the changes.

“If there is one thing I learned about the class of 2020, it’s that we don’t give up. No matter what. And this pandemic is just another hurdle for us to jump over,” Suavillo.