Rancho Cielo Celebrates its Largest Graduating Class

In a stirring celebration of resilience and achievement, John Muir Charter Schools (Rancho Cielo’s educational partner) CEO RJ Guess presided over the largest graduating class in Rancho Cielo history, honoring 73 students. The June 14, 2024, event was a tribute to the life-changing potential of education and persistence.

The ceremony was marked by powerful words from keynote speakers and reflections on the graduates and the institution. Rancho Founder Judge John Phillips, visibly moved by the occasion, reminisced about Rancho Cielo’s humble beginnings and underscored the profound impact of seeing the program’s growth culminate in its largest graduating class.

“People always ask, ‘Was it worth it?’ It’s all worth it on one day—this day. Graduation!” Judge Phillips expressed to the captivated audience. “And by far, this is our largest graduating class.”

Phillips spoke to the students’ development of self-esteem and confidence, emphasizing these as crucial outcomes beyond the diploma.

Rancho Cielo CEO Chris Devers echoed this sentiment, citing the success stories of graduates like Mirel Mejia, who exemplify the opportunity Rancho offers. Mejia, now an employee of John Muir Charter Schools/Rancho Cielo while pursuing further education, embodies the spirit that the institution strives to instill in its students.

“We have more students working and going to college than ever,” Devers proudly stated, pointing to over 50 graduates committed to continuing their education or entering the workforce.

Welding & Fabrication student Julie Gonzalez (watch the video below) shared her story, attributing her newfound prospects to her time at Rancho Cielo.

“As I reflect on the last year, I’m amazed how welding has transformed my life,” Gonzalez said. “It’s new for me to have these opportunities since doors were closed to me before.”

Alum Ashleigh Soto shared the trauma she endured and years of marginalization before finding Rancho. This led to finding purpose as a cement mason and emphasized the commencement as the beginning of a new chapter for each graduate.

Keynote speaker Hartnell College President Michael Gutierrez challenged the graduates to understand their identity, look to the future with passion, and pledge to add value to others.

“Our students have demonstrated exceptional dedication, perseverance and commitment to their academic and personal growth,” remarked Devers. “This year’s graduation ceremony is a tribute to their hard work, and as they embark on the next chapter of their lives, they will be equipped with the skills, knowledge and confidence to succeed.”

The ceremony concluded with applause and cheers as each graduate crossed the stage, diploma in hand, symbolizing academic achievement and a profound personal victory over adversity. Rancho Cielo continues to be a flare of hope and opportunity, transforming lives and communities one graduate at a time.

As these graduates step into the future, their stories are proof of the transformative power of education and their determination to create a better tomorrow.