For kids who almost gave up on school, school could have given up on them. Now, they earn their diplomas against the odds.
These kids took a different path. But in words of superintendent Rob Winter, “so?”Jose Ayala Vargas embraced family members, and gave a firm handshake to Dr. Winter.
But this was no typical graduation, and no typical school. It’s called Ombudsman, a private alternative school provider.
It was Jose’s last hope of graduating when he exhausted his chances in the traditional classroom at Grand Island Senior High.
“I got kicked out, for a bunch of reason. (This is your second chance?) My last chance,” he said. “They all thought I was going to quit, not make it, but I showed them something different.”
Jose works the night shift at the JBS Swift packing plant and also looks after his daughter.
He said, “Over the last five years, there’s 140 plus kids that honestly would not have a diploma if not for this program and Grand Island Public Schools taking the leadership and saying these kids are important, we’re not going to give up on these kids and have young men like the one you talked to, they don’t give up on themselves and that’s what it’s all about.”
There were no fancy speeches. Pomp and circumstance played through computer speakers. But all the same, Winter said that diploma opens doors that would have been shut.
Graduation had a laid-back feel, with some students arriving after the ceremony had already started. The center’s director told stories about each graduate, and the times they came to class late, or only came after repeated calls from teachers.
Still, she said, they persevered and earned that diploma.