When Granite Hills High School graduating senior Alicia Vargas Escamilla walks down the track at Rankin Stadium on Wednesday, there will be a special person missing from the stands — her father.

Ubaldo Vargas Vera died tragically in a forklift, work-related accident in December of 2018, leaving behind his wife, Maria Vargas, and four children, including Alicia.

“It was two weeks before Christmas and I remember it was right before finals,” Alicia said.

“My teachers were all really understanding.”

With only one week of school left before the Christmas break of her sophomore year, Alicia said she never came back to school until the following year, but was allowed to make up the work or take the finals late upon her return.

“It was hard to adjust again to school. It didn’t feel normal but I was able to get through it,” Alicia said. “Even though my life was so hectic, my parents always said to focus on my studies. So that’s what I did and I was able to keep up my grades.”

A 4.0 GPA student since her freshman year, Alicia managed to keep her straight-A grades up but because that year she took an online P.E. class, isn't considered a valedictorian.

“She has been part of the Law, Justice and Ethics Pathway for four years. I first met her through her older sister, who was also part of the pathway at that time,” said her counselor Angelica Carmona. “Though her older siblings are incredible role models, Alicia has come into her own. She has always been a very kind, responsible, hard working young woman, but now more than ever she is courageous and has the confidence to pursue her personal and academic goals.”

And, no doubt, the strength and love from her family pushes her every day to be the best she can be, Carmona said.

Alicia agreed, saying it was her supportive family, and a close circle of friends, who really helped her get through the tough days.

School also kept her busy. Alicia played the clarinet in the school band and was involved in a number of clubs, including CSF, Rotary, Link Crew and Spirit Club.

In addition, she took on a part time job working at the PC swap meet to help her family.

Then the pandemic hit and everything slowed down, she said. All she could do was focus on her school work.

“My sister (Roxanna) graduated last year — during COVID — and it felt really weird not being able to celebrate together,” Alicia said. “My dad always celebrated big accomplishments in our lives.”

And as she graduates on Wednesday, she will think of her father.

“I hope he is watching over me and that he is proud of all that I have accomplished and will accomplish in the future,” Alicia said.

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