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Beyond the Blue Wall at Saline Alternative High School

May 25, 2014

This past Friday marked the last day for Seniors in Saline.  At the Saline Alternative High School, Principal Carol Melcher conducted the ceremony that has come to be known as “Beyond the Blue Wall”.  Below is a copy of the script from the ceremony.  We talk a great deal about the need for our students to possess perseverance, grit and determination – these students have dealt with adversity and persevered. Congratulations!

 

Senior Send off

Friday, 5/23/14

Good morning and thank you for attending.

We are here to congratulate a group of young people that have completed all requirements for high school graduation.  In Saline, that may sound more like an expectation or something that does not require sacrifice and hard work.  But at the Saline Alternative, nothing could be further from the truth.

As a group, these students have endured hardships.   Two seniors have attended four different high schools.  Four are enrolled on a release agreement from their resident district. Seven are from single parent households. Two have been in more than one foster placement.  Five have had extended absences in their schooling due to serious mental health concerns. Substance use, abuse, addiction, treatment, recovery, relapse truancy, court involvement, school failure, denial….all of these potentially life-changing events have impacted more than a few of these young adults.  Still, in spite of the odds, they came to the Saline Alternative in search of a fresh start, a second chance at life, a positive high school experience, and timely high school graduation.

At the Alternative, this blue wall defines the “ALT” hallway: the small segment of Liberty School where the students attend school.  The school is founded on the premise of preparing students for what comes next in life.  The school is small and segmented into even smaller mentor groups where students form relationships with at least one adult mentor at the school. For some, that relationship is the first positive relationship they’ve ever had with a teacher.   The wall is symbolic of a safe, nurturing, caring environment where students can not only build academic skills, but – more importantly – learn skills for life that will help them navigate the adult world in whatever comes next in life.  Today, we send them ‘beyond the blue wall’ and off into the adult world.  It’s an exciting time, and also a bit scary.

Through the lessons learned in BASE to the heart-to-heart discussions with the teachers, these young people have learned to work through adversity, develop resiliency, and forge ahead when giving up might have been easier.  All have grown, matured, and learned lessons that will carry them into their adult lives.

Here are the stats:    In the state of Michigan, the graduation rate across the state was 74% for the class of 2011. That percentage grew to 76% with the class of 2012 and 76.96% for the class of 2013. Ironically, this increase coincided with the implementation of more rigorous state standards – including Algebra 2 as a graduation requirement.   Across the country, 78% of all public school students earned a high school diploma in four years.   This year, at the Saline Alternative, we are pleased to report that 90% of the students graduated on time – within four years of starting high school.  (18 of 20 in the 2014 cohort)

To the graduates:  That high school diploma that you will receive on June 1 is a stepping stone, a starting point on your lifelong journey.  Eleven of the graduates have been accepted into college, and four have already taken college classes through the dual enrollment program.  The graduates will attend Washtenaw Community College, Schoolcraft Community College, Ohio Technical College, Southern Virginal University and Michigan State University.  One has enlisted with the US Marine Corps.  These students are continuing on with their education, knowing – of course – that a high school diploma should be the beginning of a life long adventure with learning.

So, with our congratulations, it is also fitting that we take a moment to express gratitude.  The business of learning is a shared responsibility, and everyone here has had a hand in helping you along the way.  We asked the seniors to thank one educator that had been very influential in their success. They did so with these “golden apples.”    All of the staff members at the Saline Alternative were recognized with at least one golden apple.  In my eyes, there are no better teachers anywhere.

Thank you to Mr. Duane Wilson, Ms. Staci Nazareth, Mr. Kevin Perry and Mr. Brad Woehlke.    The students are also provided with counseling and emotional guidance from Mr. Jason Pickett and Mr. Mark Schuby.

Thank you as well to the larger Liberty school community and to the Saline Area Schools in general.  Many have provided paid employment, internships, volunteer opportunities, financial and emotional support and even friendship.  The students, and I, are grateful. Thank you!

And now, as has become our tradition, it is time to honor our graduates by hanging the names on the Alternative HS Wall of Fame.   I’ll call up each senior and ask each student to place his or her nameplate on the wall.  We’ll also give them a chance to say a few words if they’d like.

 

First, the students that graduated earlier in the year:

Michael Watson, Rosie Beach, Tyrel Bredernitz, Dillon Stratos, Seth Smith

 

Michael Adkins (Schoolcraft College)

Bonnie Bishop (WCC)

Trevor Branham (Central TX Fishing Guide Training Program, Hubbard, TX)

Amy Chatell (Michigan State University, Veterinary Medicine)

JJ Faeth (WCC)

Tanner Furgeson (Southern Virginia University)

Hayley Garbo (WCC)

Daniel Hochrein (WCC)

Aaron Long (WCC)

Weston Morris (summer internship with SAS Tech Dept, then IT Tech Inst)

Michael Savage (United States Marine Corps)

Saige Seleska (working for a year and then WCC)

Brendon Shankland (Ohio Technical College)

Ashley Smith (WCC)

Thank you, seniors!

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