San Antonio student embraces graduation speech

Nautika Clemons, 17, is exceedingly happy that she was chosen to represent San Antonio at the high school’s graduation ceremony last week.

But she wasn’t always proud to be a San Antonio Lion. At first, she saw her placement at the local continuation school as a failure. During her junior year at Claremont High School, faced with a number of family problems, her grades plummeted.

“I started to go downhill,” Nautika recalled. “I had a bad attitude about life in general and my grades started to slip.”

At the end of the year, she was told that if she stayed at CHS she would not be able to graduate. Her family decided San Antonio was the best option.

“I was angry at first. I felt like I wasn’t a good person and like I had let down my family,” she said. “I didn’t want to tell my friends because I was embarrassed.”

Nautika went down to the campus and met the teachers, who seemed friendly and eager to help her get back on track. As far as her new classmates went, she wasn’t so sure.

“At first I was all stand-offish,” she said. “I just wanted to be by myself and do my work. But then a group of girls came over and asked me if I wanted to sit with them. I realized that they were nice people, and maybe pushing people away was not my best option.”

She ended up making a great impression on her peers, including newly-minted San Antonio graduate Rejon Green.

“Nautika is a good person. She’s nice and she’s funny, too,” said Rejon, who plans to study mechanics and Chaffey College. 

The teaching and counseling staff at San Antonio High School (SAHS) presented Nautika with a very clear directive about what she needed to do to succeed. They told her what classes she needed to pass, including two online courses, and she buckled down.

“The pressure was on me. All of my focus was on graduating,” she said. “I’m going to college and so I wanted to be seen at my best.”

Before long, Nautika realized that San Antonio was the place for her. She enjoyed how the school’s small size allowed her to have lots of interaction with her teachers as well as Principal Sean Delgado.

“Mr. Delgado is great. He gets personal with students and will talk to you one-on-one,” she said. “He’s very understanding. I felt very connected, like he cared about me.” 

Having earned her diploma, she has few regrets about her high school experience.

“I heard this quote I really like: ‘It’s okay to fail, but if you fail, make sure you learn from it. Let it shape you into a stronger person,’” she said.

Nautika, who loves travel, feels strong enough to embark on a new adventure this fall. She will be attending the Borough of Manhattan Community College, living with her dad, step-mom and four brothers.

“I love to try new things,” she explained of her choice to hit the East Coast.

Nautika and her mom both volunteer in the nursery at their church, Abundant Living Family Church in Rancho Cucamonga, watching babies and toddlers while their parents are attending service. They have grown especially close over the last year, Nautika said.

“My mom said it probably won’t hit her in the beginning, but she will definitely miss me,” she said.

It was a pleasant surprise for Nautika when her economics and history teacher called her into the office and announced that she would be the school’s graduation speaker.

“I was excited and overwhelmed,” she said.  

Although being in front of so many people makes her inwardly nervous, she is able to fight through it.

“I speak well in front of people,” she said.

Mr. Delgado, who cites Nautika’s poise as one of the main reasons she was selected to present at graduation, said that is an understatement. He felt no trepidation when it came to her commencement speech, which with 33 San Antonio students represents one of the largest graduating classes in the continuation school’s history.

“We knew she’d knock it out of the park,” he said. 

The administrator noted that along with her elocution skills, Nautika grew up doing ballet. Her focus and intelligence has been recognized by both Claremont Rotary organizations, each of which awarded her a scholarship.

“We give student awards each year and she was given the MVP award, because there’s really nothing she can’t do,” Mr. Delgado said.

—Sarah Torribio



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