“I had no idea how I could’ve gotten it,” she said. “There were many possibilities.”
Pereira-Dufrechu said she was asymptomatic and that her parents did not have COVID or get it. Her disappointment quickly turned to elation when Leominster High School Principal Steve Dubzinski called her and told her they were putting together a special graduation ceremony just for her.
“I was super thankful for it,” Pereira-Dufrechu said. “It means the world to know that the school district, especially my principal, did something for me. It showed me that they cared about me so much and they realized what I was going through.”
She had the opportunity to speak at her graduation ceremony, which was held on June 15 after she finished quarantine. It was filled with all the usual pomp and circumstance, including speeches by local officials and walking across the stage to receive her diploma, a tradition that the 459 other members of the Class of 2021 also got to experience.
Leominster Public School Superintendent Paula Deacon, Mayor Dean Mazzarella, Dubzinski, and several of Pereira-Dufrechu’s teachers and family members including her parents attended the unique event, which was held outdoors in the high school courtyard.
“It was probably a hundred times better than graduation because it was more personal, and everyone that was there was there to support me and show me they cared,” Pereira-Dufrechu said. “I am so thankful for everyone that went.”
She told WCVB-TV in Boston that she regretted not getting her COVID-19 vaccine, and she encourages other teenagers and those who are vaccine hesitant to get their shot.
“I just think if I would have gotten it there would be a chance of me not getting COVID,” Pereira-Dufrechu said.
Pereira-Dufrechu will be attending Worcester State University in the fall, majoring in business administration. She is taking two classes there, English 101 and Lantinx Cultures in the U.S., through the school’s Alternatives for Individual Development summer bridge program to earn early college credits and will be doing another session in August. Because she is currently living on campus for the summer program, she was required to be tested for COVID earlier this month, which is when found out she had it.
“I plan on getting vaccinated because I need it for college,” she said.
She is the first person in her family to graduate high school and go to college.
“It means a lot to me, that’s why I was so upset I couldn’t attend graduation,” she said. “But I am glad I got something.”
In addition to her dedication to her schoolwork, Pereira-Dufrechu works at Market Basket, typically 15 hours a week.
“I will be working and trying to make memories with my family,” she said of her summer plans.
Pereira-Dufrechu said she is grateful to the high school administration and staff who not only made her solo graduation ceremony possible but also made her high school experience memorable.
“I just want to give a huge shoutout to Mr. Mooney who has been there for me since I was a freshman, and Mrs. Spylio who I met senior year, but she will forever be in my life,” she said. “From this situation I’ve learned that whenever there’s something negative happening in life, you have people that care about you and should always think positive. I always have a place to call home — Blue Devil for life.”