NORTH LOGAN — For a few years, Green Canyon High School senior Rigoberto Campos was more likely to be found in the school hallways or commons with his friends than in the classroom.
But when his young mother was diagnosed with leukemia, which ultimately killed her, he made a commitment.
“I promised her I would graduate school and I would take care of my brothers,” Campos said. “So far, that’s what I’ve been doing.”
Sure enough, Campos will participate in commencement exercises at USU’s Dee Glen Smith Spectrum on Thursday with the class of 2019.
“I feel good about it, I feel proud,” Campos said. “I feel like I’m setting a good example for my brothers for them to follow my footsteps and hopefully graduate, too.”
Campos, his grandmother and school officials will attest that it was a challenge for the 18-year-old North Logan resident to focus on school and graduate.
Campos said he did not feel motivated to study around the time he entered North Cache Middle School.
“I just wanted to be there just to talk to friends,” he said.
Campos’ lack of work ethic continued when he entered Sky View High School, which students in North Logan attended before Green Canyon opened.
“I was keeping up on some work, but not a lot of it,” he said. “I got behind credits there.”
When Campos started attending Green Canyon High School, his poor attendance record escalated. Max Jones, a Green Canyon HS counselor, took notice.
Campos had “always been a nice kid, but … school was more a social thing than anything else,” Jones said.
Campos’ upbeat demeanor attracted a lot of people to him.
“He was a leader among his group, if that makes sense,” Jones said.
Campos said his friends would “follow … my footsteps. They would do what I do.”
School officials eventually sought to use that as a way to get him to turn his study habits around, according to Jones.
“It was like, ‘Come on, Rigoberto, we need to channel this energy you have into positive things.’ It took him a little while for him to see that,” Jones said.
Campos’ grandmother, Susan Garza, thought for a while that he might not graduate from Green Canyon HS.
“I’m not going to lie about it … I did have my doubts,” she said.
Garza remembers telling Campos at parent-teacher conferences why it was so important that he graduate from high school.
“Nowadays, you need that diploma for any job you get — even if it’s just working in the warehouse,” Garza said.
Garza also reminded her grandson that his mother only made it to the 10th grade before dropping out.
“I’ve always told him, ‘Your mom … always wanted to see you kids graduate and be something,’” Garza said. “She always pushed them to do something with their lives.”
In 2017, Campos’ mother was diagnosed with Leukemia, leaving the Green Canyon senior most of the responsibility to take care of his brothers. Though he was fortune to have a close-knit community and other family members to help him with that task.
Campos said his mother’s diagnosis and eventual death hit him hard.
“I was just feeling hurt,” he said.
Campos began to think he needed to drop out of school to help support the family, according to Jones.
“Last year, he was like, ‘I’m done,’” Jones said. “It really took some convincing for him to stick it out and stay here.”
What changed Campos’ mind about dropping out of school, Jones said, was the notion that if he would make more money if he obtained his high school diploma.
Over the last year and a half, Campos has “taken off” academically and pursued schooling with enthusiasm, said Jones.
“He’s finally starting to see, ‘Hey, I can make a difference and I can help people … to pass their classes,’” Jones said. “I think that’s been a very positive thing for him.”
Campos improved his grades and encouraged his close friends at school to get to class on time.
“He’s got leadership qualities and he can help steer them in a lot of ways,” Jones said.
Given the arc of Campos’ schooling career, Jones is beaming with pride at the thought of him graduating from high school.
“That’s just awesome to see,” he said. “As a counselor, you’re just dying for these who may have been thrown some curveballs in their life and they finally see, ‘Even though I have been dealt this bad hand, I can overcome these trials and I can make a difference.’”
And Jones will have a message for the Green Canyon senior on graduation day.
“I’m going to pull him aside and say, ‘You see, when you put your mind to something, you can accomplish it,’ and make sure he continues that as he moves forward,” Jones said.
Campos intends to go to Bridgerland Technical College and study mechanics. He hopes maybe one day he can open his own shop.
“Now I realize how important it is,” Campos said.