Family celebrates success of graduates at a distance

Angel Manalang, Fort Campbell Class of 2020 graduating senior, is ranked third in her class. Her parents, Ermina and Staff Sgt. Israel Manalang, B Company, 96th Aviation Support Battalion, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), and brother, Matthew, a 2019 FCHS graduate, presented Angel with her diploma.

The Manalang Family is managing to celebrate major milestones and keeping positive even while being split up because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Angel Manalang, Fort Campbell Class of 2020 graduating senior, is ranked third in her class. Angel spent her entire high school career at FCHS She played softball, soccer and ran track. She served as the president of the National Honor Society during her senior year, and was involved in the Student 2 Student club that welcomes new students to FCHS, and also volunteered often through the National Honor Society.

“I’ve always taken my academics seriously and it was my priority,” Angel said. “I didn’t realize how high my score was in my class until my junior year. My friends and I were all on the same level, we took the same class, but as junior year rolled around I realized I was at the top of our class.”

Angel will attend the University of Kentucky in the fall and plans to study physical therapy.

Angel’s oldest sister, Irish, was the FCHS Class of 2016 valedictorian, and is now graduating from Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, California, with a degree in neuroscience and will commission into the Army’s medical services branch as a second lieutenant. Their brother, Matthew, is a 2019 FCHS graduate and is attending California State University, Long Beach, California.

“My sister was the first of my siblings to graduate, so she kind of set the tone,” Angel said. “I wanted to follow in her steps and do as well as possible as well.”

Angel, Irish and Matthew are the children of Ermina and Staff Sgt. Israel Manalang, B Company, 96th Aviation Support Battalion, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).

Because of COVID-19 safety protocols, a group commencement ceremony was not possible. So instead the staff and faculty of FCHS created a commencement video with all graduating seniors receiving their diploma, moving their tassel, tossing their cap, and creating a senior shout out.

“The way our senior year ended was pretty disappointing to say the least,” Angel said. “We missed out on the best months of high school, but the fact that our school still made the effort to give us a graduation and make us feel special really meant a lot to myself and a lot of my peers. It may not be the graduation we were initially expecting, but at least they gave us something to celebrate rather than nothing at all.”

Angel’s parents presented her with her diploma during the filming of the FCHS graduation ceremony.

“We’re very proud of her,” Israel said. “It was very special for us, my wife cried. I cannot tell you the feeling, giving her the diploma.”

The Manalang Family is choosing to stay positive during this time, celebrating separately but are equally as excited for Angel and Irish.

“It’s disappointing she won’t be able to come my graduation and I can’t come to hers,” Angel said. “The fact that we’re both graduating is still an accomplishment in our eyes. We can celebrate as Family, even if it’s not in the way we wanted to.”

Doing well in school and striving to be their best has always been important in the Manalang household. Their parents were involved in their academics and extracurricular activities, especially sports.

“We’ve always supported them, we’ve driven them to sporting events and watched, we’ve always tried to give lots of moral support,” Israel said. “We’re very proud of both of our daughters and our son. I’m 100% supportive with whatever they want, as long as they are happy. As long as they enjoy the career they choose, I’m happy with it.”

Irish said her parents taught them the value of hard work and discipline, which has made all of the difference in their academic careers.

“My parents immigrated from the Philippines, they didn’t understand the college application process much, but they’ve always encouraged us to strive to do our best,” Irish said. “They didn’t always know how advanced placement courses or the ACT went, but they did whatever they could to support us and help us. They never particularly pushed us toward XYZ, they just instilled in us discipline and hard work ever since we were children, which has helped a lot.”

FCHS is a special place for the Family because all three of their children graduated from the school. Angel said FCHS is a very tight-knit learning environment where students and teachers form close bonds, which helps students succeed.

“I like the fact that because we come from a military community everyone is very similar,” Angel said. “Everyone knows each other personally. The teachers care about their students and everyone bonds pretty well. We meet a lot of new people and we make friends easily because we can adapt from moving around so often.”

Irish also enjoyed learning and growing up in Department of Defense Education Activity schools with other military children.

“I thought it was really fun, honestly,” she said. “Moving around has never bothered me, I spent half of high school in Germany and the other half at Fort Campbell, but my attitude toward getting good grades didn’t change. It was just fun, it never hindered me.”

Irish and Angel both agree it’s a bittersweet feeling having to celebrate the other’s successes from afar.

“I’m very proud of her and what she has done,” Irish said. “I’m really happy she was able to attend Fort Campbell High School for all four years, it gave her stability and she really enjoyed it there. I’m definitely very glad she’s maintained the academic rigor both my brother and I worked for as well. It’s bittersweet because she didn’t have the same high school graduation experience as me and my brother, but I’m glad her accomplishments will carry her forward.”

Irish will commission into the Army June 13. She will arrange for a virtual commissioning ceremony for her parents to participate if they cannot attend physically.

“When Irish graduated high school, we watched her go to the stage and were so proud,” Israel said. “Now this is different, but we are still so proud of her. Irish is commissioning and I hope I will be able to salute her, which is very special for a father to be able to salute his daughter.”

Regardless of the distance, the Family agrees collectively there is so much they can celebrate.

“I was bummed the way the year ended, but I still had a great first semester of my senior year,” Angel said. “I wish I had another opportunity to say goodbye to all of my classmates and the teachers and thank them for their support over all four years. I’m appreciative of being a Falcon for all four years, which prepared me for college.”

Recommended for you