Mario Villanueva Ramos inspires graduates


For the first time since the late 1950s, Annandale hosted this year’s 2020-2021 graduation ceremony on campus. The ceremony took place yesterday at 9:00 a.m. at the stadium field, and it was filled with joy and excitement as the class of 2021 gathered to celebrate their time at Annandale.

The guest speaker was Mario Villanueva Ramos, a classroom monitor who graduated from Annandale Transitional High School after emigrating from El Salvador to the U.S. in 2007.

Ramos spoke about his experiences in America and his struggles as he started his new life in Annandale, Virginia.

“The first job I got was washing dishes in an Indian restaurant. The work was hard, but sometimes hard work is not enough. I quickly realized that my dreams of a better life were not possible making minimum wage washing dishes,” Ramos said in his speech.

Ramos’s message of inclusion was also featured in NBC4 Washington as his message resonated with the entire graduating class, parents and teachers as well.

During the commencement, Ramos delivered his speech in both English and Spanish, his native language. This was especially meaningful since over 30 percent of Annandale students are English learners. Ramos’s commencement speech reflected on his Latino heritage and was inclusive to Annandale’s Latinx and Hispanic community.

“I thought the guest speaker did a great job of encapsulating everything we’ve gone through this tumultuous year while also sharing his personal story. I liked how he gave the speech in Spanish first and then English,” senior Khadija Ahmed said.

Ramos’s commencement speech was one of the biggest highlights of the ceremony as he celebrated the class of 2021.

The ceremony did have some downsides due to the heat and cicadas. Despite all of this, seniors were happy that they had an opportunity to have an in-person experience with their friends and loved ones.

“I think the school did the best they could in organizing the ceremony given the circumstances. Everyone freaking out about the cicadas throughout the event was pretty funny, and it’s not something I’ll be forgetting anytime soon,” Ahmed said. “Overall, I’m glad we found a way for everyone to celebrate together.”