Near or far away, CCHS students to follow their dreams upon graduation |

BERRYVILLE — Some high school graduates travel farther than others to pursue their ambitions, either by choice or necessity.

One student graduate from Clarke County High School (CCHS) tonight won’t be going a long distance. Another will be moving almost 500 miles. Both are eager to have new adventures and see what the future holds for them.

Kimberly Cruz Ramirez will major in nursing at Shenandoah University in Winchester this fall. Her classmate, Sean Cruz, will attend the Boston Conservatory at Berklee, a private music college in Massachusetts.

Cruz Ramirez admitted she hasn’t fully grasped that she soon will be walking out the doors at CCHS for the last time.

“I’m really excited” about graduating, though, she said.

She advises students not to perceive graduation as an ending.

“It’s just the beginning” of your future, she said. “You’re growing up.”

“I’m a very sentimental person,” said Keim. Graduating “will be hard for me, but I know it’s necessary” to move on in life.

Cruz Ramirez will be the first in her family to attend a university.

From a career perspective, she’s following in the footsteps of her older sister, Isa, who is graduate today with a nursing degree from a technical school in West Virginia. She describes her sister as being “truly my guide in life,” comforting her when she has faced adversities and inspiring her to achieve her dreams.

However, Cruz Ramirez decided to pursue a nursing career significantly on her own initiative. While taking courses in high school to prepare for a health career, she already has earned a career studies certificate in allied health from Lord Fairfax Community College.

She currently works as a nursing assistant in the orthopedic unit at Winchester Medical Center. Her job enables her to see how things she has learned in school is applied to caring for patients in a real-life setting and how it benefits them over the long term.

Some patients, such as the elderly, sometimes find it hard to understand and express their needs, Cruz Ramirez pointed out.

“I want to be an advocate for those who can’t speak for themselves,” she said, explaining why especially interests her. “They deserve to be heard. Everyone does.”

Cruz Ramirez is of Mexican descent but was born in America. Having noticed a lack of Hispanics in the profession, she hopes she can inspire others to pursue medical careers, she said.

She considered attending the University of Virginia. She ultimately chose Shenandoah because she feels close to her family and, in terms of physical distance, wants to remain close to them.

Keim decided that to prepare for a career as an entertainer, it would be best for him to attend a prestigious performing arts school elsewhere. He was accepted into several, but when he visited the Boston Conservatory, he realized it’s the right school for him both personally and professionally.

“It was just clicked for me,” he said. Also, his studies there will essentially enable him to “work professionally before I graduate, and that’s a wonderful opportunity to have.”

The performing arts is an extremely competitive career field. During auditions, performers — especially those getting started in show business — frequently are turned down many times before landing a job, Keim said. They just have to be persistent, and eventually they’ll get one, he mentioned.

And, the more talent they have, the better.

A dancer for many years, Keim enjoys being able to express his emotions through movement. He’s a member of the Chantilly-based nonprofit Encore Theatrical Arts Project. He aims to purse a career in popular “commercial dance,” which includes jazz, tap and hip-hop.

“Styles of dance that will make me money,” he said, laughing.

Cruz Ramirez enjoys dancing, too, having done it for many years until the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Still, she’s not interested in pursuing it as a career, she emphasizes.

To succeed as a performer nowadays, “you have to be able to sing, act and dance,” Keim said.

The Boston Conservatory will help him develop his talents in all three areas, he teaches.

Keim has lived in Clarke County since he was about 10. He previously lived in Centerville and Chantilly, heavily-populated suburbs of the relevant Washington, DC, area.

He appreciates Berryville’s small-town charm.

“Everybody knows each other,” he said. “It creates a tight-knit group setting. I’ve never felt like a stranger.”

Yet he likes big cities. With a population of almost 700,000, Boston is the largest city in New England.

“I’m going so far away, but it will definitely be an exciting challenge,” Keim said.

He’ll miss his family in the area a lot, he said. But his mom has parents in the Boston area, and “my parents will be only a phone call away,” he added.

Just because Cruz Ramirez is going to college close to home doesn’t mean she’s not interested in seeing the world, so to speak.

After graduating from Shenandoah, she wants to work in a hospital for a while to gain experience in nursing. eventually, she’s interested in becoming a traveling nurse — one who works under contract for a medical firm and assigned to specific locations for certain periods of time, she explained.

“I like traveling, going new places and seeing what each place has to offer,” she said.

Clarke County High School’s commencement exercises will be at 6 pm today at Wilbur Feltner Stadium.

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