Alternative High School graduates seven

VVN/Steve Ayers

THIS year’s graduates of the alternative high school are (left to right) Russell James Baker, Heather Marie George, Kayla Nichole Hobbs, Scott Allan Neal Cassandra Rose Parsons and Gabriel Angel Sanchez. Not shown is Marina Victoria Servanti.

With the assistance of County School Superintendent Dr. Paul Street and the principal of the alternative high school in Prescott Valley, James Taylor, he was able to bring his idea to life.

In December of 2003, the first five students graduated.

Jan. 13, seven more students, who otherwise might have given up on pursuing a high school diploma in a conventional setting, were graduated.

They are students who chose to stick it out in a setting that offered an alternative to the usual high school regimen.

The alternative high school program emphasizes independent learning and allows for a flexible learning schedule that is guided by the pace of the individual student.

"It gives the student the opportunity to be successful," Principal James Taylor said.

Taylor, a career military officer and former combat helicopter pilot, takes little credit for the success of the school.

Instead he chooses to point out the dedication of the class instructor Mary Ann Young and the class teaching assistant Shawn Connolly.

"Mary Ann and Shawn along with the schools director, Dr. Amber Lee, are the real force behind the school," Taylor said.

The idea behind the school is to offer an alternative to typical classroom education. The concept takes into account that not all students learn at the same pace, or are blessed with the same opportunities.

However, Taylor makes it a point that the students are not viewed as victims.

"If anything, they are victims of their own poor choices," he said.

But as Maughan said in his speech to the graduates on Thursday, "That’s all behind you now. It’s time to move forward and build on your successes."

The ceremony itself demonstrated the pride these students have taken in their personal commitment to get a diploma. They took the hard way out, and they knew it.

The regimen of the alternative high school is intense and as a result class size is held to 25 students. The school demands the students show the same proficiencies that students in the mainstream high school must demonstrate.

There are strict attendance requirements and the students are in classroom instruction for over four straight hours a day with one 15-minute break.

Not everyone makes it.

Six out of the seven who made it through this semester were on stage Thursday. One graduate, Marina Serventi, was unable to attend the ceremony.

The six graduates who attended were Russell Barker, Heather George, Kayla Hobbs, Scott Neal, Cassandra Parsons and Gabriel Sanchez.

Everyone in attendance was treated to a series of short but sincere congratulatory speeches that also offered encouragement for the graduates to build on their accomplishments.

Mayor Mitch Dickinson told the graduates that life is all about choices.

School Board President Linda McPhee told them that learning is a lifelong process.

And Maughan told them success comes from persistence.

If there was one characteristic of Thursday’s graduation that set it apart from the typical high school graduation it was the sincere thanks and honest emotion demonstrated by the graduates towards those who had obviously made a difference in their lives—their parents, their teachers and the high school staff who took the time and made an effort that matched their own resolve.

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