Framework

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Moises Cisneros, 12, watches as his sister, Belen Rodriguez, does her hair in preparation for her high school graduation. Rodriguez represents part of the final class of students who remember Locke High School in Watts from before charter school operator Green Dot took over. She said that before Green Dot transformed Locke, she feared for her life whenever she was at school. The encouragement of her cousin and her school counselors kept Rodriguez determined to graduate.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Arkasha Stevenson / Los Angeles Times

Wilbert Aparicio, a soon-to-be Locke High School graduate, spray paints a mural next to the school's basketball courts. Since Green Dot's takeover, the only graffiti on campus is a mural that students have created on a wall designated for student art.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Arkasha Stevenson / Los Angeles Times

Locke High School students Keyonna Leblue, left, and Robin Jones dance off during a senior fun day a couple of days before graduation.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Arkasha Stevenson / Los Angeles Times

Jamisha Andrews, from left, Vanessa Millan, Danielle Jacob, Dominique Davis and Kiante'nesha Bell sign one another's yearbooks during a senior day.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Arkasha Stevenson / Los Angeles Times

Locke High School guidance counselor Stephanie Nunez-Marroquin signs a graduating senior's yearbook while checking students' GPAs. Over the last three years the two guidance counselors have become surrogate parents to many of the "original" Locke students.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Arkasha Stevenson / Los Angeles Times

"I'm going to be graduating!" Victoria Maravilla, 18, tells her aunt over the phone after finding out her final grades. With Locke High School's graduation only two days away, students were eager to find out their state exit exam test scores to see if they would graduate with the rest of their class.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Arkasha Stevenson / Los Angeles Times

Dejohnette Dubose, a senior at Locke High School, picks up her cap and gown in the cafeteria with the rest of her graduating class. She has had her "Daddy's Little Girl" tattoo since September.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Arkasha Stevenson / Los Angeles Times

Campus security guards check under students' robes before letting them enter the gym before the Locke High School graduation ceremony.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Arkasha Stevenson / Los Angeles Times

The crowd can't contain its excitement as graduating friends and family members walk across the stage at Locke High School's 2011 graduation ceremony.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Arkasha Stevenson / Los Angeles Times

Locke High School guidance counselor Stephanie Nunez-Marroquin holds back tears during the graduation of the final class of students who remember Locke High School in Watts from before it was taken over by Green Dot. Emotions ran high for the two guidance counselors, who were a major support system for many of the Locke students throughout their high school careers.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Arkasha Stevenson / Los Angeles Times

The crowd of graduating seniors erupts when part of a graduation speech is delivered in the form of a rap.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Arkasha Stevenson / Los Angeles Times

Locke High School guidance counselor Stephanie Nunez-Marroquin gives one last hug to a student after the Locke High School 2011 graduation ceremony.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Arkasha Stevenson / Los Angeles Times

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‘Original’ Locke students graduate

The graduates were the last remaining students who had attended Locke High before it became a charter school three years ago. The “original” Locke students, as they’ve come to be known, were placed in the Launch to College Academy, a school within a school that shrank with each passing class and, with this graduation, now disappears altogether.

The two counselors, too, are bidding farewell to the school. Along with the principal, they are moving to Jordan High to begin anew.

“It’s kind of a graduation for me, too,” counselor Raquel Michel said. “This is not just a culminating event for the students, but a culminating event for anyone who invested in the transformation. We kind of, in a sense, grew up with them.”

Read Rick Rojas’ article.

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