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Originally posted March 16, 2012
Union Alternative School graduates 1,000th student March 15
Graduating more students than any similar program in the state, Union Alternative School, 5656 S. 129th E. Ave., celebrated its 1,000th graduate in a ceremony at the school at 11 a.m. Thursday, March 15. Related story
Rather than single out any one student, teacher Bob Buck, officiating at the graduation, said they choose to view the class of 10 students as the 1000th graduate because they are all graduating at the same time. (Learn more - Facts and Myths of the Alternative School)
The 10 students - Bianca Williams, Zach Meyer, Kim DeMarco, Vanesa Medina, Tyrone Meadows, Aelicia Powell, Amanda Gable, Devin Seals, Clarissa Maldonado and Diana Portillo - have finished all required classes and passed the required end-of-instruction tests to qualify for graduation. All of them have already plans for college or a good career.
“None of the other approximately 250 Alternative schools in Oklahoma has reached this number of graduates, according to the Oklahoma Technical Assistance Center,” Principal Richard Storm said.
The school, which serves 200 students, operates in four-week blocks instead of semesters, allowing students to graduate at the end of each block throughout the school year. Students also have the option of participating in traditional commencement with other Union seniors at the Mabee Center.
Citing a number of statistics, Buck said they have averaged 60 graduates a year since the program started in 1995, and considering that most of those years they have had 100 students, the number of quite a success. With the recent expansion to 200 students at the school, graduation numbers will rise after a faster rate, he added.
All students who enter the program are deemed substantially at risk of not graduating from the regular education program at Union Public Schools for reasons such as academic deficiencies, poor attendance, social or emotional issues, pregnancy, or behavioral problems, Storm said. Almost a quarter of the school’s students are recovered dropouts.
“When we started this program in 1995, we had three teachers and 45 students and limited resources, but Union’s school board and administration have always strongly supported our efforts, so the program has flourished,” Storm said.
This support is evidenced by the school’s growth to 200 students housed in a state-of-the-art separate facility, which includes three buildings, three computer labs, electronic white boards in each of the 13 classrooms, and a full service cafeteria.
During the graduation, Buck recognized each student, starting in order with the students who had been in the program the least, remarking on their achievements and handing them a certificate.
Dr. Kathy Dodd, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning, praised the students for their efforts and commended the staff at Union Alternative for their determination to help students suceed. Teachers presented Dodd with a glass box containing 1,000 lifesavers, representing the number of students who have graduated through the program. Storm was also presented with a life preserver as a "thank you."
The room was packed with students, parents, participating programs and media to witness the event. However, Buck noted that they consider the graduation of all their students - the school holds graduation ceremonies through the year - as equally special. "These students are special and we are proud of them," Buck said.
Below are selected images from the ceremony.