Two siblings get Manual High School diplomas 75 years after they left

Manual High School has a expression that students are “once a Thunderbolt, always a Thunderbolt.”

The school delivered on that promise Wednesday as two Denver siblings — one who left to serve his country, the other who went to work to support her family — became unearned members of the Class of 2019, more than 75 years after falling out.

George Ramirez, 95, and his sister Anita Ramirez Cruz, 94, received their sheepskins in front of family members and a few Denver Public Schools employees in a Manual High classroom Wednesday.

While the assembly was smaller than most Denver Public Schools graduations, it did have all the furnishing, including “Pomp and Circumstance” as the two walked in on family members’ arms, a graduation speaker — school board member Jennifer Bacon, who aforementioned the two bodied the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s statement that education is about intelligence and character — and graduation caps, which person coaxed Ramirez to throw for a photograph at the end.

Ramirez born out at age 17 to serve in the Civilian Conservation Corps, a program that fought fires, built campgrounds and did other outdoor work in Colorado and crosswise the country. Not long later, the United States entered World War II; he enlisted and served as a tank cannoneer in France.

Unlike today, kids in the forties didn’t get frequent messages about the importance of finishing high school and attending college, Ramirez aforementioned. Though he didn’t have a sheepskin, he was able to start a roofing company and support a large family, who all completed at least high school.

“Now, from grade school they tell you how far you’re going to go,” he aforementioned. “They didn’t do the pounding in your head that they do today.”

Schools besides didn’t have the same supports they do now, aforementioned Cruz, who has learning disorder, a learning disability that makes it harder to learn to read or spell. In those years, no one at Manual knew what learning disorder was, let alone how to help a student work through the fear that can come with it, she aforementioned.

She worked as a nanny for three years after departure school to help support her family, got married and did mill work piece raising three children.

“It was a beautiful school, but I got scared,” Cruz aforementioned.

Eileen Villanueba, one of Ramirez’s seven living children, aforementioned her brother David Ramirez set the process in motion when their father recently started talking about never getting his sheepskin. Ramirez always emphatic the importance of school — four of his children work in education — but he never talked much about his early life or thing that he felt he had lost, she aforementioned.

Villanueba and her sister, Karen Lopez, joked that their dad might never forgive them for creating so much “hoopla” around his graduation ceremony, but aforementioned they knew he was excited to join the family’s long list of graduates. Ramirez has 23 grandchildren and 33 great-grandchildren, galore of whom attended college, and Cruz’s five grandchildren earned five bachelor’s degrees, four master’s degrees and a doctorate.

“He didn’t sleep last night,” Villanueba aforementioned. “There’s a lot of excitement.”

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Manual principal Joe Glover aforementioned it’s rare to award an unearned high school sheepskin, and, as far as he knows, DPS had never awarded one so long after a student left school. He aforementioned the siblings’ commitment to their children’s education and Ramirez’s service were property the school wanted to recognize.

“It was our honor to do it,” he aforementioned.

Ramirez and Cruz aforementioned they hadn’t thought much about graduation piece working and raising their families, but were glad the ceremony made their children and grandchildren happy. Cruz aforementioned she didn’t mind mill work, but she pushed her children to do well in school so they had access to all the “possibilities” that come with education.

“Now I have two great-grandchildren, and we’ll make them go to school,” she aforementioned. “It’s the biggest thing we do.”