In Grand Island Friday, high school seniors who made that choice years before, assembled for a day they never thought they would see – graduation.
The Ombudsman Program, part of Grand Island Public Schools, is giving students a second chance; kids that had the world stacked against them and now are learning the world is at their feet.
“There were a lot of kids in my class I wasn’t getting enough attention and I kind of gave up on myself,” said Lauren Bopp, a new graduate. Two years ago, Lauren was one of 500 kids that were about to give up on their high school education in the state of Nebraska.
“I was thinking she might not graduate and I was awfully worried about her,” said John Bopp, Lauren’s dad.
‘Giving up’ is a pattern teachers at Grand Island’s Ombudsman program see in kids walking through their door. “Not every kid fits into the public school system it’s like a round hole and a square peg,” said Bob Cook, a teacher.
Traditional high school hasn’t fit for these kids, so teachers are sizing education to the student. “It’s more one on one with teachers and there are not as many kids not as much to deal with,” said Tyler Weigert, a recent graduate.
“There are four teachers that will drop what they’re doing to help you,” said Bopp. It seems simple, but for many of these kids, having someone help them is a first.
“Last year there was a student who said the first week of school ‘well, you guys will all be gone soon,'” said Cook. “I looked at him and said, ‘what do you mean’ and he’s like ‘everyone quits on us.'”
“All kids can learn and all kids can be successful if you give them the right tools and the right environment,” said Dr. Rob Winter, GIPS Superintendent.
For the recent graduates, the Ombudsman Program was the right fit. “I think everyone would be proud of me, I didn’t think I would be able to do it,” said Weigert.
For Lauren, her future is finally in focus.
“I plan to go to college and be an optical assistant.”