Noah Ruiz was always kind of a quiet guy.
The 17-year-old, who was the youngest of three, didn’t really come out of his shell until he got close to graduating from Redwood High School. At Sequoia High School, Ruiz was uncomfortable with the large school and found himself often skipping class and planning to transfer to Redwood High — which he saw as a way to graduate on time with less work. As Ruiz prepared for graduation, he realized that Redwood High was the right place for him, but he was wrong about the cruise-through environment he expected to find at the small campus.
“Noah is the kind of kid I like to call presidential,” said Principal Frank Wells. “He has a fun-filled spirit, extremely bright and can do anything he wants to do in life.”
Ruiz struggled at Sequoia. He found himself not going to class, hanging with a small group of friends and planning an exit to Redwood High. It was during sophomore year that Ruiz started thinking about a change. His plan was to miss enough class to be sent to Redwood High, the Sequoia Union High School District’s continuation school. What Ruiz learned later was that he needed good attendance to be considered for the program at Redwood High. So, at the start of junior year, Ruiz started going to classes and actually passing classes but he still happily transferred to Redwood High mid-school year.
Around the same time, Ruiz decided to come out to family and friends — a difficult decision for him. However, what Ruiz has realized looking back, is those who loved him either already knew or have been quite supportive. Junior year at Redwood High was spent getting to know people and the way things worked. During senior year, Ruiz found himself getting more involved and becoming more comfortable sharing himself with others.
Part of that change came from applying to Redwood High School’s Redwood Environmental Academy for Leadership, known as R.E.A.L. The program is an innovative partnership started four years ago to bring hands-on science lessons to students. Students work with professional partners to build leadership and learn academics through environmental service projects. It’s a commitment for Ruiz since it takes up the first four periods of class and he likes to volunteer for weekend activities. The extra time isn’t required but Ruiz said he enjoys supporting the program and helping spread the word.
Joining R.E.A.L. gave Ruiz the opportunity to apply for a trip to Thailand earlier this year to create clean water systems with another student, a teacher and members of the Peninsula Sunrise Rotary Club. The Rotary chapter had decided to sponsor two students for the trip. Ruiz wrote a paper on why he should go.
Admittedly, Ruiz was drawn to write for the opportunity for a trip of a lifetime. Once in Thailand, however, Ruiz was amazed at the unsanitary conditions in which others lived. And, despite that poverty, people were happy. It’s influenced how Ruiz looks at his own situation.
The trip also helped Ruiz understand that he can communicate with people, even when he literally doesn’t speak their language — an empowering realization during the second half of his senior year.
After graduating, Ruiz plans to attend the College of San Mateo to study biology so he can ultimately become a nutritionist.
Redwood High School’s graduation will be held Thursday, June 6.
Great Grads is in its eighth year profiling one graduating senior from each of our local schools. Schools have the option to participate. Those that choose to participate are asked to nominate one student who deserves recognition.
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