Students challenge Montwood High’s unwillingness to remember a beloved classmate in this year’s commencement

Friends of Aaron Carrillo are petitioning the permission to remember him at their commencement ceremony. (Jessica Neels/

Friends of Aaron Carrillo are petitioning the permission to remember him at their commencement ceremony. (Jessica Neels/

EL PASO – Aaron Carillo and Jon Cervoni had just left a band concert at their local church when their vehicle stalled. Then, a drunk driver speeding and swerving down the road hit them, taking their lives that hot summer night, July 8, 2011.

Carillo was a student at Montwood High School. He was getting ready to begin his junior year when his life was ended abruptly. Many say he was a humble and genuine young man who believed strongly in Christian faith and righteous moral conduct. Aaron would have graduated this coming May with the class of 2013.

In his memory, students at Montwood asked the administration if they could exhibit a chair with his cap, gown, and tassel during the ceremony. The students also requested that the administration present his family with a certificate or plaque in representation of his diploma. The school administration denied the request to the surprise of the students and some community members.

Friends of Aaron Carrillo are petitioning the permission to remember him at their commencement ceremony. (Jessica Neels/

Friends of Aaron Carrillo are petitioning the permission to remember him at their commencement ceremony. (Jessica Neels/

Liza Campero, a senior at Montwood, decided she would not take no for an answer, and started a petition requesting that the student’s wishes to honor Carrillo be met.

“We wanted to show the administration how much of an impact Aaron had on us. We started high school together. We want to end it together as well,” Campero said.

She began this petition on January 24, 2013. At first the petition was solely for the seniors at Montwood, but soon the outside community heard about the petition and requested one be made available to the public. Campero went to and created an online petition to spread the word even further. The administration at Montwood heard about the petition and called Liza into the office. They were not very happy about what she started, she said.

“They said this petition is a form of retaliation against them, because some of the school doesn’t really like the principle,” Campero said.

She said that the administration called her “selfish” because she doesn’t know what Carrilo’s parents would feel knowing that their child was supposed to be walking across the stage, but when Mrs. Carillo was asked about her feelings towards Liza’s petition she said,  “We are humbled by it. It’s nice to know how many lives my son touched at such a young age. I’m very disappointed to know that Montwood is reacting this way.”

Borderzine attempted repeatedly to speak with Montwood High principal Rosa Mireles Menchaca, but she never complied with our request for an interview.

Jon Cervoni, the young man who died along with Aaron that night was supposed to graduate from Eastwood High School with the class of 2012 last June. During the graduation ceremony Cervoni’s mother Patricia Montes, walked across the stage in Cervoni’s cap and gown and received his diploma. She said that she couldn’t believe the struggles that the seniors at Montwood were going through in order to remember their friend.

“They came to me! I didn’t have anything to do with the way Jon was honored. They did everything all I had to do was show up,” Montes said.

Carrillo and Cervoni were members of the Abundant Living Faith Center and played in a band for the church. They had Just left a concert the night they were killed.

“They were good kids, you know. They didn’t go party and drink like most teenagers. They were still virgins!” Montes said.

Campero’s mother Liza Martinez has had many calls and meetings with the administration as well as with the Socorro Independent School District about the petition her daughter started. She said she is proud of what her daughter has done and considers it a selfless act.

“She gains nothing out of this! She is doing it out of the bottom of her heart and I am very proud of her. She has shown me how much she has grown beyond her years. I’m so proud of the mature young woman she has become,” said Martinez.

During some of these meetings Liza says that the administration kept telling her that they simply couldn’t do what she was requesting. At first they said that the state would not allow the action, but later they said that was not the case. No further reason was given for denying the petition. After constantly being told that they couldn’t do what her petition was requesting Campero stood up at one of the meetings and said,

“If it is such a problem to put out a chair for Aaron, I’ll gladly give up my seat and stand in the back during the entire procession.”

The issue is still alive and the battle between Campero and the administration continues. With more than 800 signatures on her petition, Campero said she is not backing down until they get exactly what the petition requests – a chair with Carrillo’s cap, gown and tassel and a symbolic presentation in his memory during the ceremony.

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