15 new graduates take non-traditional route

Graduate Austin Hough moves his tassel as classmates Kaitlin Lupfer, left and Taylor Hatten, right, watch the ceremony at the Mesa valley Vision Graduation at the Roper Music Ballroom Wednesday afternoon.

One’s going to Denmark, another plans to attend college in Germany. Still another soon will be in Hong Kong.

But many of the 15 students who graduated from the Mesa Valley Vision Home & Community Program on Wednesday are staying right here in town, planning to continue their education at Mesa State College.

“Until now you have been living at home, spending your parent’s money, running up the water bill,” said Rich Emerson, owner of Johnson’s House of Flowers, 1350 North Ave., a former teacher and college professor who delivered the commencement address. “As Bill Cosby once pointed out, commencement means to go forth, and forth is not home.”

The program, which is part of School District 51, supports home-schooled students. As a result, each student’s education is individually designed to meet student goals, needs and interests.

Though 15 students graduated on Wednesday, only 10 attended the commencement ceremony. Five others opted to celebrate graduation in private ceremonies, said Amy Sullivan, executive director of the program.

Sullivan said 80 percent of the students enrolled in the program came from home-school settings.

“The other 20 percent of our kids typically come from a traditional classroom setting and have no prior experience with what we think of as home-schooling,” she told family and friends at the ceremony. “Some of them find their way to us after they’ve struggled with the classroom setting and are at risk of dropping out. A couple of our graduates today followed that category. They didn’t drop out. They went on to find success here.”

Because only 10 students attended the commencement, the program decided to honor them with a slide show of each, which included photos of the students’ lives since they were infants. Each was accompanied with their own song, such as Kenny Loggins’ “Footloose” or Bob Dylan’s “The Times They are A-Changin’.

As for the future, nearly all of the graduates plan to attend college, including one who has been accepted at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Hong Kong.

Two others plan to go to beauty school somewhere, and two plan to attend to Calvary Chapel Bible School in California. Others are hoping to become teachers, artists, musicians or nurses.

“You’re going to have adversity in life,” District 51 School Board president Harry Butler told the graduates. “But don’t lose your character.”


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