Friday October 26, 2012

BRATTLEBORO -- Several audience members were moved to tears of joy as students of the Community High School of Vermont shared their inspiration and celebrated their graduation ceremony at the Brattleboro VFW on Tuesday.

"Graduation is important to me, because I think it will help me get off of probation, so I can better my life," said Randy DeJordy, Jr. of Brattleboro. "I would like to get off probation so I can get a job and go to a school of art."

Community High School is an alternative learning institution for people who are unable to earn a degree at a traditional high school.

Superintendent Wilhemina Picard introduced students who had struggled with school in the past. The seven graduates were students who, before Community High School, had become pregnant, had drug addictions, or were in trouble with law enforcement. On this brisk fall morning, these smiling graduates all gathered with the same dream: that their future would be brighter.

"It's not just math and English," said graduate Jinnie Gross, reading from her letter to the Gov. Peter Shumlin, which every graduate wrote prior to graduation. "It's much more than that."

Before giving out the diplomas, Picard asked audience members if they'd like to address the class, from their seats. Family, friends and teachers from the graduates' past acknowledged their accomplishments, congratulating the class on their achievements.


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"This is my favorite part of the job," Picard said to the audience. "Watching young people like this, who bring us inspiration."

Administration who were in attendance were full-time teachers Tod Lessard, Peter van Wageningen, and special-ed coordinator Mary Cohen. The graduates from the school thanked them for their help, guidance and special attention.

"After having my child I had no choice but to drop out," said Alyssa Andrews of Brattleboro, reading from her letter to Shumlin. "Not only did my teachers care about my education, but they wanted us to be able to do something with it."

Now, a few graduates are looking at colleges and know exactly what they'd like to study and major in. Some are enrolled in the Community College of Vermont. Others are not sure what career path they will take, but are certain they will continue working toward a higher education. Eric Dix, for example, wants to start his own autobody garage and work on cars.

Several of the students will be the first of their family to receive a high-school diploma.

The recessional song was "If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out," by Cat Stevens, reminding students that they can achieve their goals and make their dreams come true.

The other graduates included Laura Frankiewicz, Ebon Longueil and Samarra Washington.

The Community High School is an accredited member of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. Individual graduation plans help students who normally would have fallen into a category of drop-outs. The Community High School has helped many students focus on their dreams and choose a better path. In order to graduate, a student of this school must earn 20 credits and demonstrate a proficiency in reading, writing and mathematics.

For more information about the Community High School of Vermont, visit chsvt.org.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com.