Five graduating seniors at Miami private school share memories, dreams

Donna Winchester

Family. Opportunity. Gratitude.

These are the words on the minds of a handful of South Florida students standing on the threshold of adulthood.

On June 2, the five seniors – Shawn Cuellar, Elisa Hernandez, Katherine Cabrera, Isabel Perez and Ron Mendez – will bid farewell to the school they’ve grown to love, La Progresiva Presbyterian, located in a working-class section of Miami.

Shawn, Elisa and Katherine arrived at La Progresiva as middle-schoolers. Isabel started as a pre-kindergartner. If you ask Ronald, he’ll tell you he’s been at La Progresiva his whole life.

Principal Melissa Rego has watched each of them grow up, deal with challenges, and emerge victorious.

Despite the fact that their world was turned upside down by COVID-19 – no senior trip, no prom, no graduation – these students are anything but resentful. They have some regrets for what has been lost, but their eyes are trained on their futures: becoming a veterinarian, serving in the military, raising a family.

Earlier this week, Rego sat down with the students and encouraged them to talk about where they’ve been and where they’re going. How their reality is different from what they imagined, how the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship that made it possible for them to attend a private school has shaped their lives, and how their lives might have been different without it.

Two members of the redefinED team were fortunate to be part of the conversation. Here is what we witnessed.

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