A group of 15 students who were once in danger of dropping out of school, persevered and earned their high school diplomas at Columbia on Thursday afternoon. The students were part of Operation Graduation, an alternative education program for at-risk seniors.
“Operation Graduation has consistently graduated students who felt hopeless and distraught,” said Special Education teacher Melissa Gleason who directs the program. “We understand that a one-size fits all education doesn’t always work.”
Operation Graduation was created in 2010 as a way to support students who struggled in the regular school setting. In a classroom located in the basement of the school, they receive more one-on-one attention and have fewer distractions.
The program has graduated 111 students since its inception.
“OG was tough, but I can’t imagine my life without it because I probably wouldn’t have graduated,” said Brennan Barnes who will be attending the Modern Welding School in the fall.
All 15 students in this year’s program earned diplomas, giving them better opportunities for their lives ahead. In a video that served as the keynote address, the students proudly spoke about their future plans, which include college and careers in health, cosmetology and education.
“I’m gonna go to college and I’m gonna rock the world,” Austin Emma said.
Superintendent Dr. Angela Nagle, Principal John Sawchuk and Assistant Principal Ed Kilmartin all spoke at the ceremony, congratulating the students for their hard work.
“When you face obstacles in life, remember what you’ve done here,” Mr. Kilmartin said.
One by one, each of the students walked across the stage to receive their diplomas.
In her closing remarks, Mrs. Gleason acknowledged each of the students and gave them some final advice.
“If you remember nothing else from your time in OG, remember that nothing is impossible,” she said.
Operation Graduation Class of 2016
- Benjamin Auer
- Brennan Barnes
- Hannah Chandler
- Celina Ciccarone
- Patrick Conners
- Austin Emma
- Tucker Glass
- Jenna Kakely
- Heather Rudolph
- Hannah Schermerhorn
- Brandon Stanley
- Cequoia Steele
- Tyler Wagner
- Ashley Williams
- Joseph Zach