Alternative R-5 High equals success

The future wasn’t looking so rosy for Samantha Wittern when she learned she was pregnant during the summer of her sophomore year in high school.

At age 16, she soon realized that continuing at a traditional District 51 high school would separate her from her infant son.

But that didn’t hinder her from getting her diploma, a feat she accomplished early, before giving birth, through R-5’s Young Parent Program.

“He needed me to be there for him,” Wittern said in a speech to 85 other R-5 graduates Friday at Brownson Arena. “Now I could be the one to raise him and not a day care center. If I can do this (earn a diploma) pregnant and early, you can, too.”

Earning a high school diploma is no small task for many students at R-5 who often enroll in the school when life deals a tough blow or when traditional high school is not a good fit. Students are able to complete schoolwork while holding jobs.

R-5 programs include Schools Without Walls, the Young Parent Program, Division of Youth Corrections, The Opportunity Center, Key Performance and East and West Valley Schools. Students must complete work above a C average to graduate. The school’s name is derived from its values of responsibility, relevancy, respect, reinforcement and readiness.

Josh Pugh arrived in Grand Junction after moving from Washington state. His studies there didn’t translate well to District 51 work. Being able to work while going to school was a benefit.

Still, it was the constant prompting from teachers that encouraged him to continue.

“Not a day went by when I hadn’t heard a teacher say” ‘Hey guys, let’s work toward graduation,’ ” Pugh said.

Hundreds of families and friends who packed into the auditorium yelled spirited congratulations to students with hoots and air horns.

As tradition goes, students delivered carnations to loved ones in the crowd, a touching moment often mixed with tears and bear hugs.

Another steadfast ritual included music from the Mount Garfield Middle School Band, which played the theme from “Mission Impossible” as graduates filtered outside.

Seconds before, hats flew through air when principal Dave Casey made graduation official.

“We want you to know you will always be part of the R-5 family,” Casey said, and the crowd answered with wild applause.


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