Monday’s Ombudsman commencement ceremony was not nearly as big as the one for other Grand Island Public Schools graduates, but it was greeted with the very same excitement and enthusiasm as Sunday’s graduation in the Heartland Events Center.
Eighteen students received high school diplomas Monday during a ceremony at the Grand Island Ombudsman Center, 2300 N. Webb Road Suite 10.
Nearly every seat that had been set up for the afternoon graduation was filled by family and friends of the 18 graduations, which Linda Sanders, Ombudsman Center director, identified as the largest group of graduates in the program’s short history in Grand Island.
Ombudsman has commencement ceremonies twice a year, in December and in May. Following Monday’s graduation, Sanders said the two ceremonies for the 2011-12 school year celebrated the graduation of 30 students.
“That’s about double what we had last year,” she said.
Sanders opened the ceremony by welcoming everyone who had come to witness a great day of celebration “for the kids who are part of this Class of 2012.”
She noted that not all 18 students who were recognized as graduates in the program were able to be physically present for the ceremony. Sanders said one student came from Massachusetts because he’d heard about the Ombudsman program and wanted to take advantage of it to earn a high school diploma. But even after he arrived in Grand Island, that student had to fight to get his diploma because he had no ride to the education center on North Webb Road.
Sanders said another graduate, whose family was moving to Arizona, made sure to stay in Grand Island to earn all the credits needed for graduation before finally making the move.
Neither of those students was able to be at the graduation.
All 18 students faced their own particular challenges in getting their high school diplomas. Sanders said some students were able to use the online curriculum to graduate a little early, while others in Monday’s graduation class were fifth-year seniors, who had to talk the school district into giving them one more chance to graduate.
Some student speakers talked about holding down two jobs while going to the Ombudsman program. Others talked about finding people who they thought really cared about them, while some talked about being able to succeed with a hands-on curriculum.
Sanders said that some of Monday’s graduates had been with Ombudsman for two years. Some who had been in the program the longest saw the parent company of the Ombudsman program change some attendance guidelines, as well as the curriculum. Although that might have been discouraging, students did not give up.
Grand Island Superintendent Rob Winter used one of the themes he had during Sunday’s graduation ceremony by pointing out that the root word for “commencement” is “commence.” He said commence means “to begin,” and graduation is a beginning, not an ending.
Winter also said that graduation happens for students who make very deliberate decisions about their future.
“You would not be here today if you had not made a choice,” he said.
By choosing to graduate, the 18 students had greatly brightened their prospects for higher earnings and a brighter future than young people who chose not to get a diploma, Winter said. “That’s nothing new.
The superintendent urged students to continue to make good choices as they move forward into the military, the world of work or additional education.
Sanders assured the students that Ombudsman is there not just to help them get high school diplomas. She told the newly minted graduates that, should they ever encounter a difficult problem to solve, especially if it involves college education, they should come back and talk to the Ombudsman staff to get help.
MAY 2012 GRADUATES
Consuelo “Tina” Deollos