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30 Days of Grad: Lauren Roberge

Most high school valedictorians speak vaguely about a limitless future at this time of year, but Amesbury Academy‘s Class of 2015 valedictorian Lauren Roberge is a bit more pointed.

“My family is very excited and proud of how far I have come, especially because we didn’t think I was going to live to 18, let alone graduate at the top of my class,” Roberge said. “And I am very proud.”

An Amesbury native, Roberge came to the public charter school in her sophomore year after experiencing difficulty at Amesbury High School, according to principal Eryn Maguire. “She dealt with some pretty intense bullying,” Maguire said. “When we accepted her, we were told by the high school that she had struggled, and that we were going to be dealing with some of those struggles.”

Roberge had felt trapped, and now fully agrees with her principal and former biology teacher that the smaller class sizes at the Academy really fit the bill.

The Academy let Roberge feel comfortable enough, she said, not only to come out as gay, but to excel academically.

“I didn’t have as many opportunities to be myself,” Roberge said. “The Academy let me be who I am and accepted me for me, which is what I really needed. When I went to the Academy, I had been in a place where I didn’t think I was going to make it — not just through school, but life itself. The school definitely saved my life.”

This post was adapted from an article by the Daily News of Newburyport. Read more about Amesbury Academy and Lauren’s story in the article here.

Lauren Roberge

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30 Days of Grad: Leslie Maldonado

Leslie MaldonadoToday’s #30DaysOfGrad post comes from Leslie Maldonado, a graduate of Achievement First Amistad High School in New Haven, CT.

During my journey throughout high school, sometimes I thought I wouldn’t be able to make it. Growing up as the first person in my household to graduate from high school, the first to attend college, and the first person to graduate from college was not the path laid out for me. As the oldest of eight, I have the responsibility of creating a path for my younger siblings. Every day, I come home to find my mom furiously trying to juggle the responsibilities of raising my six younger brothers and my one-year-old sister. And as the oldest, I work after school, and sometimes I don’t return home to complete A.P. assignments until after midnight. If it wasn’t for the support system at my school, I actually don’t believe I would be where I am today.

I have made it my goal to refuse to set the wrong path for my six younger brothers and my little sister. I know statistics suggest that I can’t do it. I know that it will not be easy to continue to create a path for my younger siblings, and I know that I still do not have all the keys to open up all the doors that I need. However, I ultimately know that what matters is that at the end of my journey I will have opened doors of opportunities for all my siblings.

Helen Keller once said, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight and no vision.” I have a vision. I want to be that older sister who makes her six brothers and little sister into leaders who create more leaders instead of followers.

I want to be the older sister who does not fail them. I will be that older sister. And that is why in the spring of 2019, I will be graduating from Wesleyan University.

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30 Days of Grad: Angel Onofre

Angel Onofre was ready to ditch school. Depression and a conversation with his parents, who live in Mexico, left him feeling unmotivated to continue with school. But when he went in to tell the principal of El Colegio Charter School that he was dropping out, just one semester short of graduation, she wouldn’t allow him to do it.

On June 5, he and 15 other seniors received their diplomas, after years of struggling in other schools. Norma Garces, the principal, said many of her students, including the seniors, have parents who were deported, or fear deportation for their relatives. They suffer from depression. They have failed in a normal school setting. But her school offers them a second chance.

El Colegio Charter School is a small public high school in Minneapolis that has been serving students in English and Spanish since 2000. They pride themselves on offering learning experiences that integrate teaching with Latino culture and traditions. El Colegio provides a supportive and personalized environment for students so they are individually supported to meet the challenges of high school and beyond.

This post was adapted from an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Read more about El Colegio and Angel’s story in the article here.

Angel Onofre - El Colegio

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30 Days of Grad: Ria Cheruvu

Ria Cheruvu lives a normal life like many of her neighborhood friends and classmates at Arizona Connections Academy. The 11-year-old enjoys playing golf, piano, writing poetry, discussing books, taking field trips and just hanging out with her friends.

However, while most of her friends are preparing for the upcoming rigors of junior high, Ria is getting ready for an experience that will drastically differ from seventh or eighth grade. Ria is set to graduate… from high school.

The next stop for this gifted student is Arizona State University in the fall where she will mingle with college students nearly double her age.

Unlike most college freshmen that are unsure about a major, Chevuru knows exactly what she wants to study: neural cryptography, a study of neuroscience, which involves the study of the brain and mind cryptography, which is coding.

Read more about Ria on the Arizona Charter Schools Association blog here.

Ria Cheruvu - Arizona Connections Academy

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30 Days of Grad: Kensington Woods Schools

Kensington Woods Schools honored 21 graduates during their commencement ceremony this year. Students were honored for their academic achievements during the ceremony as well as their demonstration of character and service throughout high school. Students also received a variety of scholarships to support their future college endeavors, totaling over $175,000. Kensington Woods High School proudly has a 100% college placement rate for all graduates and the Class of 2015 is no exception.

In her Salutatorian speech, Abigail Gamache recognized the impact Kensington Woods had on her and her peers and encouraged her peers to find happiness in their lives by being themselves. “We couldn’t have made it here to this moment right now if it wasn’t for Kensington Woods. This school is more than just your average high school. The teachers, staff, and students form a small-knit community, in which everyone strives to achieve success in every way possible.”

This post was adapted from an article in the Livingston Post. Read more about Kensington Woods Schools in the article here.

Kensington Woods Schools

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30 Days of Grad: Fusion Charter School

When Anthony Griffin first arrived at Fusion Charter School, he admitted that he didn’t have any hope for graduating. Unbeknownst to him was that only a few years later he would be speaking as the 12th grade speaker in front of the the school’s first graduating class.

During his speech, Griffin spoke about his appreciation for the teachers at his school, including how they “talked to him and not at him,” the advice they gave, and most importantly, the fact that they never gave up on him. “That’s the type of school that we have. We have a school where the teachers care,” said Griffin.

Fusion Charter is an independent charter school under the partnership of Aspiranet and Turlock Unified School District. The school provides a unique educational opportunity for at-risk students in grades 7 through 12 who live in Stanislaus and Merced County, California.

This post was adapted from an article in the Turlock Journal by Alysson Aredas. Read more about Fusion Charter School in the article here.

Fusion Charter School

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30 Days of Grad: Gateway Public Schools

Duncan AlexanderDuncan Alexander
During his commencement address to the Gateway High School Class of 2015, math teacher, Mr. Rick Aidi, described how his students have taught him so much over the last four years. One student in particular, Duncan Alexander, proved to him that “no matter how bleak one’s circumstances are, the right attitude can work miracles.”

Duncan is part of the foster care system, which has led to many transitions and uncertainty during his years in school. Despite many challenges throughout his life, Duncan remains extremely positive, committed to giving back to others, and grateful for the support that Gateway has provided him. Read more about Duncan here.

Ariana CamposAriana Campos
Ever since Ariana Campos was a little girl she knew that she wanted to spend her time helping animals. What she didn’t know was that Gateway would set her on the road to college as an aspiring Zoologist with dreams of traveling to Africa and the Galápagos Islands to help exotic animals.

This fall, Ariana will be the first in her family to attend college. She will make a big move and travel from the West Coast to the East Coast to attend Ohio Wesleyan University, a small liberal arts school with a challenging curriculum that connects classroom theory with real-world experience. She will be studying zoology with the hopes of working at an animal conservation center. Read more about Ariana here.

Golden HongGolden Hong
When Golden Hong entered Gateway High School as a freshman, he struggled with writing, grammar, and analysis. Now he is graduating Gateway having received the honor of Highest Academic Achievement, which recognizes the senior with the highest grade point average throughout their high school career.

Gateway’s rigorous academic program enabled Golden to develop strong writing skills while also providing strong participation in STEM areas that helped shape his desire to pursue a career in engineering.

Golden will be attending the University of California, San Diego, in the fall and major in engineering. Read more about Golden here.

Dezáray LoweryDezáray Lowery
Dezáray Lowery’s time at Gateway High School has been filled with many life-changing experiences that have helped shape her compassionate, confident, and ambitious personality.

During her freshman year, Dezáray participated in a program through Gateway called buildOn, a non-profit organization that helps build schools in some of the world’s poorest countries. Dezáray traveled to Haiti as the youngest member of the group and was the only African-American woman.

Dezáray has a passion for helping others and plans on studying psychology at Spelman College. Dezáray became interested in pursuing psychology while exploring different career paths with Gateway’s Director of College Counseling. Read more about Dezáray here.

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30 Days of Grad: Urban Prep Academy

For the sixth consecutive year, 100% of the seniors from Urban Prep‘s Englewood, West, and Bronzeville campuses have been accepted to four-year colleges and universities.

Students from all three campuses, faculty, parents and other special guests, including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, celebrated the momentous occasion with an assembly on Thursday, May 14, 2015. Seniors from the class of 2015 have been accepted to over 180 colleges and universities, and have amassed over $11 million in scholarships and grants; including 6 Gates Millennium Scholarships, 5 Posse Scholarships and 7 Greenhouse Scholarships among others awarded.

Urban Prep Academies

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30 Days of Grad: Rafael Devora

Rafael Devora received his diploma from Premier High School in May and is headed to Cisco College beginning in the fall with intentions of becoming a registered nurse. It’s a career path rooted in family history, but also in a desire to be a helping hand.

“Most of my family is in nursing and I just like to help people,” Rafael said. “It’s always been a little passion of mine, being helpful to others when they need it the most.”

When he has needed help the most, he’s been able to rely on his family for support and guidance. Whether it is his mother and his three brothers, or his grandparents, he said he’s been able to lean on family.

His family isn’t the only source of strength he has, though. There’s also Premier’s teaching staff.

“It’s been wonderful,” he said. “It starts with the teachers. They’re really kind and nice. When I’ve needed help with things, I would be able to go to the teacher and have conversations and receive as much one-on-one time as I’ve needed. I know that’s not the case in some other high schools. They can’t really focus on the one-on-one. At Premier, they give the students that attention.”

This post was adapted from an article in the Abilene Reporter-News by Timothy Chipp. Read more about Rafael’s story in the article here.

Rafael Devora | Photo credit: Nellie Doneva / Abilene Reporter-News

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30 Days of Grad: K’Von Williams

For a significant portion of his life, K’Von didn’t enjoy coming to school. He often skipped class or just walked out when he wasn’t engaged. In the traditional public school environment, K’Von found it too easy to slack off.

After enrolling at DeLaSalle Education Center, K’Von knew that he wouldn’t slip through the cracks. Thanks to the small community, supportive teachers, and intimate learning environment that the school provides, K’Von has found tremendous success and is graduating from high school despite the odds stacked against him.

“Some days you don’t like it because the teachers will get on you, but they’re just trying to push you to do more,” he said. “I’ve been to ten other public schools and none of them worked out. This is the only high school I’ve been to that I have felt comfortable with.”

Watch K’Von tell his story in this video:

DeLaSalle is an innovative high school serving students in Kansas City, MO in need of an alternative to the traditional school. It is one of the only high schools in the Kansas City metropolitan area that provides alternative education and behavior health services onsite. The school prides itself on guiding young men and women toward self-sufficiency and self-reliance, helping them define their goals and achieve their dreams.

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