Online school graduates first class

Graduate speaker Danielle Hanahan gives an ode to non-traditional students at the end of her speech at the Grande River Virtual Acadeny Wednesday.


Grande River Virtual Academy Class of 2012:

* Peter Zachary Baier

* Sarah Renee Cautrell

* Danielle Marie Hanahan

* Alison Aspenwall Hunter

* Cheyenne Christine Hutchinson

* Cody Saxon Melot

* Angelica Marie Oliver

* Esther Kristine Stanback

* Jacob Zane Thibodeau

The year Sarah Cautrell’s brother died, she lost interest in traditional school.

She made it through her junior year after his passing but dropped out of Central High School during her senior year. She tried R-5 High School for three semesters, but it wasn’t the right fit.

With two-and-a-half credits between Cautrell and her high school diploma, she considered taking the General Education Diploma test. But part of her still wanted a high school diploma. That’s when Grande River Virtual Academy called Cautrell and invited her to return to school, this time as part of District 51’s first all-online program.

Grande River graduated its first class of seniors Wednesday morning at the Courtyard Marriott. Eight of the nine graduates participated in the small ceremony in a hotel ballroom where caps hit the ceiling and clunked to the floor when graduates tossed them skyward at the end of the graduation.

Sitting among the graduates was Cautrell, who finally earned her District 51 diploma after earning the credits she needed through the online academy. Cautrell said the freedom of doing work when she wanted to made Grande River a perfect fit.

“I liked that I go to do things at my own pace and with my own style,” she said.

Now that she has her diploma, Cautrell said she plans to work for a while, then possibly go to Durango to pursue a postsecondary degree.

“I didn’t even picture myself with a diploma for a while and I got a wonderful ceremony and I got to be part of a first,” she said.

Other students shared Cautrell’s enthusiasm for comprising Grande River’s first graduating class and getting to their diploma through an alternative route. Keynote speaker and graduate Danielle Hanahan said she “slacked” in school and started to think she would never finish until she found Grande River and enrolled.

“To all of my classmates, I’m proud of you. Here’s to the non-traditional students,” she said, pumping her fist into the air.


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