And they’re off!

The first of eight commencement exercises took place on Wednesday afternoon in the auditorium at North High when eight diplomas were awarded to graduates of districtwide alternative programming.

It’s a group that took the road less traveled. As one of the speakers put it, “It’s been a long hike.”

Four of the seniors spoke and all of them were spoken about.

Nickolas Myers completed the Junior ROTC program while earning his diploma from Focus. “I wanted to drop out more than once,” he said. “But I didn’t because I am going to be a Marine. I love my country and want to serve.”

Chad Williams was grateful that “I finally ended up in a foster family that really cares about me. I’m proud to have their last name.”

Markus Peters acknowledged “all of the mother hens who taught me self-discipline.”

Daveontaye Green said he wasn’t sure he was going to make it but he did, “thanks to my nagging teachers,” each of whom he proceeded to mention by name, like an Oscar winner at the Academy Awards.

Prentiss “Coach” Hedrington spoke on behalf of the districtwide staff and his remarks included props. The only one of 12 children in his family to graduate from high school, Hedrington, who has siblings both deceased and imprisoned, conveyed a message of “Cast your line for success,” complete with a fishing rod and fisherman’s hat.

As they crossed the stage to accept their hard-won diplomas, teachers Ben Hurley and John Shnathorst fondly remembered each of the graduates (Kira Borst, Kashawn Carter, Hunter Hansen and Albert Romero in addition to the speakers). It was a personal touch that won’t be possible as this first trickle of grads becomes a flood over the holiday weekend at the Knapp Center. That’s when the bulk of the district’s Class of ‘18 will process.

The last ones won’t graduate until August. But the first ones got all of the pomp and circumstance off to a poignant start.

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