It’s that time of year when we honor the accomplishments of our graduates. We celebrate graduation in recognition of achievement and as a moment to ponder future aspirations. This experience marks an accomplishment of one of life’s most important journeys.
If we focus just on the concept of a journey, we realize there are three distinct characteristics that must be considered: the origin, distance, and destination.
Over the past year, I have had the opportunity to visit many alternative high schools around the state of Arizona. I have noticed that many of our alternative school students share common destinations with other students from traditional schools, but their distances and origins are unique. It is the sudden recognition of this uniqueness that makes graduation special to those of us who endeavor in the world of alternative education.
At graduation, when we look beneath the field of mortar and tassels, we see the shadows of students who once experienced extensive failures within our communities and traditional schools. Barriers such as generational poverty, substance abuse, lack of family support, teenage pregnancy, and homelessness have made the journey much greater in distance to travel. As alternative education professionals, we understood that these circumstances were daily challenges that each student endured, challenges in addition to the academic rigor required to achieve a diploma. We realized our instruction, curriculum, advice, guidance, and coordination of services had to be intensified and monitored with extreme accountability to meet the needs of each graduate.
As we look at each graduate, we remember each home visit, each conference, and each event that seemed to make the achievement of a diploma more impossible, yet here we are standing before our graduates ready to take part in our commencement ceremonies.
The lifting of our professional integrity beyond the scope of academic teaching and a renewed focus on fostering the personal and academic growth of our graduates has truly yielded this miraculous moment in our careers and in the lives of our students. In the difficult journey toward a high school diploma, our graduates have gained the potential to reach further life goals independent of their life circumstances. Barriers may still exist, but each graduate has confidence: confidence that with persistence, life success is still achievable.
As a member of the alternative education community, I am truly grateful for your dedication and impressed with your continuous ability to see beyond the barriers and strive for the potential of those who seek your services.
Brian Grossenburg is Principal at Education Opportunity Center, Yuma Private Industry Council’s alternative school. He is a Board member for the Arizona Alternative Education Consortium. You can reach him at BGrossenburg@ypic.com.