OAKHURST – Perhaps no other graduating class in 2013 had more to celebrate than those receiving their diplomas from the alternative high schools in the Yosemite Unified School District.
Ahwahnee and Evergreen High Schools, Yosemite Falls Education Center and Yosemite Community Education Center/Adult School graduates and their proud families and friends all gathered at the Mountain Christian Center on Tuesday, June 4, at 7 p.m. for commencement ceremonies.
Following the Prelude and Processional led by Jackie Byers, the evening’s program started with a drum circle and a traditional Native American celebration.
Principal Dr. Randall Haggard then acknowledge the achievements of these 52 graduating students.
“Most of our students have a unique story,” he told the crowd. “Most have had to overcome obstacles to get where they are today.”
Four of the graduates were chosen as student speakers, and Kayla Kenyon addressed the notion that alternative school students are somehow ‘bad’ kids.
“I had to get a job and support myself,” she said. “Let’s show the community why we’re better.”
Ron Williams talked about his choices in life, citing his decision to finish and to graduate as the best choice of all.
“We’ve had our struggles, but we’ve powered through,” said Zachary Yang. “What are we going to do now? We’re going to be successful. Watch us!”
Finally, Aniessa Hinojosa spoke on the measure of success. “Ask yourself often, am I happy? That’s how I know if my efforts are creating success – if I am happy.”
The Murray Hammerling Award was then presented to Evergreen High School graduate Sierra Henry.
“For the last 15 years this award has been given to a student going on to college, who has put out extra effort,” said Haggard.
Sierra was also the recipient of the Irene N. Ahlers Memorial Scholarship, presented by Evergreen High Lead Teacher Mary Beth Harrison, and designated for “A person who has made the world a better place.”
The Staff Award was presented by Dana Hall, teacher at Yosemite Community Education Center, who was very moved when she announced that Mason James Boswell was the recipient.
“This student has a 4.0 gpa and a full-time job,” she said. “I cried when I read his reflection paper. He honored is mom for all the support she has given him. In fact, he sometimes thought she was following him, because she got a job at all his schools.”
As Dr. Haggard prepared to present the diplomas to the students, he made one request of the audience.
“We want each graduate to have their moment in the sun,” he said. “They’ve earned it.”
As each one came forward to accept their diploma, the students had hugs and handshakes for teachers and staff, and all seemed to feel that they had accomplished something huge.
Five of the graduating seniors were the children of a parent who had also succeeded at one of these alternative schools, and graduated during another emotional commencement ceremony.
The Graduating Class of 2013:
Ahwahnee High School
Christian Robert Cramblett
Evergreen High School
Itzajana Kahory Castillo Sabrina D’Anne Langevin
Ariana Rochelle Cornell Tanner W. McConnell
Chase Chantel Deskin Lucas H. Owen
Rebecca Lou DeVere Derek T. Standlee
Jessica E. Dye Daniel R. Vanderbert
Sierra A. Henry Dominic Nathan Vanderhorst
Aniessa Danae Hinojosa Taylor Marie Winn
Timothy Kile Jones Zachary Paochoua Yang
Yosemite Falls Education Center
Tate David Allen
Jake Austin Wheeler
Yosemite Adult High School
Pedro Cazares-Arce Cody Martin
Eric Baze Ethan Garrett Maxwell
Amanda Louise Boswell Sadie Katelyn McCoy-Parker
Mason James Boswell Sierra Naomi McGovran
Tory Renae Cummins Kristen Nichole Nelson
Courtney Dunson Debbie Piercy
Brian John Forney Randy Willian Purdy
Nicholas Shane Garrett Daniel Troy Robinson
Shyanna Ann Haanen Vincent M. II Rosales
Nichole Heck Katie Lyn Seiverson
Shane Christopher Jones Joshua Nathaniel Struck
Clint Ray Kelley Molly R. Vickery
Kayla Ann Kanyon Elizabeth Paige Wald
Kayla Nichole Kochackis Ron Wayne Williams Jr.
Alternative schools are a path to graduation and success for students when the traditional high school structure or schedule isn’t an option. Some may need to work full time, or have health issues that would make navigating a large campus all day a challenge. Some may have come from out of state and find themselves behind in credits. Others may be teen parents. If you or your student are in need of an alternative to traditional schools, please contact any one of the local alternative schools in the area.