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Then, in the End : As the School Year Winds Down, Students Face New Challenges

SEASONS OF LA QUINTA/ PORTRAIT OF A SCHOOL IN EVOLUTION; MONDAY: Fall, the season of beginnings finds staff writer Nancy Wride returning to the La Quinta High School campus where she graduated 17 years ago. She discovers a much more ethnically diverse student body grappling with many of the same teen issues that bedeviled her in the '70s. TUESDAY: Winter means basketball games and the holiday formal and associated other dramas. Wride attends the Co-Ed ball and is invited to an after-dance party where she meets up with a water polo player who is facing a number of problems but is trying to make a fresh start. WEDNESDAY: Spring finds Vietnamese parents working with the principal to keep their children out of gangs. Wride meets an inspiring immigrant student who is overcoming a devastating loss, and she learns more about a teen mother who dreams of romance have come true. TODAY: Summer approahces as La Quinta weathers some bad news with the good. A CIF title belongs to the baseball teams and education inspectors give the school high-fives, but a TB scare and its media coverage irritate students. Yearbooks, graduation and the decisions about the future steal most of the attention.


A sea of royal blue gowns and caps fill 357 folding chairs seating La Quinta High School's Class of '94. Most of the seniors are wearing sunglasses; others squint into the bright sunlight beating down on the grass football field of Bolsa Grande High School, the closest campus with a stadium big enough for Monday's graduation ceremonies. American flags flutter beside the rows of students. Coincidental to this momentous occasion, a pink inflated King Kong floats in the air above a car dealership across the eastbound Garden Grove Freeway that flanks the field.

Both light-hearted and brimming with profundity, the commencement speakers quote Henry David Thoreau, poet Robert Frost, the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, former New York Mayor Ed Koch and U2 lead singer Bono.

Introductions are made by a girl-boy team of Naheed Simjee and school newspaper editor Chris Dutton, both of whom refer to the year's major news events--on and off campus.

"We've been through floods, fires, riots," Chris recalls, " . . . or what about the earthquake that shook school second period?" He reassures his classmates that if they made it through the TB spotlight, "we can make it through the times ahead."

Lynn Phu, the aspiring teacher bound for UC Davis, soon takes the podium, urging the people with whom she has spent four pivotal years to always have a dream to chase. She reminds them that they have lived harmoniously inside their campus community in a way many neighborhoods have not yet managed.

"The greatest lesson I've ever learned in school came not from a textbook but from all of you," Phu tells her classmates. "You've taught me to understand, accept and appreciate each other's differences. La Quinta itself is a multicultural society, one that is still in its infant years but has already proven to have the potential of becoming a model for the rest of the world.

"It is my belief that every generation that rises in this world brings with it a new culture that is irreplaceable. . . . No matter how much has been said that history repeats itself, I can promise you that there will never be another Class of 1994, especially the one that you and I know."

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