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Glad grads: Students receive diplomas from South Washington Alternative High School

Mike Mahaffey, principal of South Washington Alternative High School, dismisses the class of 2014 for the last time. (Bulletin photo by William Loeffler) 1 / 10
Marisol Contreras Barbosa and Michael Moris watch graduation ceremonies at South Washington Alternative High School on June 5. (Bulletin photo by William Loeffler) 2 / 10
The audience applauds graduates at the June 5 commencement ceremony at South Washington Alternative High School. (Bulletin photo by William Loeffler) 3 / 10
Principal Mike Mahaffey speaks at the June 5 commencement at South Washington Alternative High School. (Bulletin photo by William Loeffler) 4 / 10
Kalley E. Denzer receives her diploma at the June 5 commencement at South Washington Alternative High School. She hopes to enter the law enforcement field. (Bulletin photo by William Loeffler) 5 / 10
Marisol Contreras Barbosa receives her diploma at the June 5 commencement at South Washington Alternative High School. (Bulletin photo by William Loeffler) 6 / 10
Graduating senior Martin Hernandez, (center) applauds during the June 5 commencement at South Washington Alternative High School. (Bulletin photo by William Loeffler) 7 / 10
Twenty-nine students received their diplomas at the June 5 commencement ceremony at South Washington Alternative High School. (Bulletin photo by William Loeffler) 8 / 10
Graduate Christina M. DeVito high-fives a staff member at the opening ceremony of the commencement at South Washington Alternative High School. (Bulletin photo by William Loeffler) 9 / 10
Jen Smith of Newport takes a photo of her niece Savanna Stettner and Stettner’s boyfriend Brandon Bailey before the commencement ceremony at South Washington Alternative High School. Stettner was one of 29 students to earn their diplomas. (Bulletin photo by William Loeffler)10 / 10

They all had something to prove, whether it was to themselves, their parents or teachers.

They weren’t always sure of their direction.

Some might have been ready to give up.

Yet, here they were, 24 newly minted graduates of South Washington Alternative High School, marching in a procession to the tune of “Pomp and Circumstance.” The June 5 ceremony took place at the District 833 Program Center. Five others graduated but did not attend.

If the graduates can be said to have one thing in common, it’s that their journey involved a few bumps in the road.

Students in School District 833 can be referred to the Alternative High School if they struggle socially or academically at Woodbury, Park or East Ridge high schools. Because of its smaller class size, teachers at the Alternative High School can provide students with more personalized attention.

That made all the difference for senior Savanna Stettner, 18, who admitted she struggled with social anxiety when she attended East Ridge High School. She also said she fell behind in her studies because she was overwhelmed with homework. At the Alternative High School, she said, she was on a first-name basis with her teachers.

“The fact that it’s got smaller classes and one-on-one with teachers, it helped me to understand better,” said Stettner, of Newport. She said she hoped to go to college.

The alternative curriculum didn’t mean students weren’t challenged, however.

Senior Mike Moris, 17, said he felt like giving up at the beginning of this school year after he learned he found he had to take extra classes to earn enough credits to graduate. He also had to get an after-school job as part of his requirements, he said.

One of the best things about the Alternative High School was that it didn’t have traditional high school social cliques, Moris said.

“Everyone knows everyone,” he said. “You get along with everyone. Kids that I would judge and never talk to at a regular high school, I talk to here.”

Each student chose a teacher to tell their story during the ceremony. Social studies teacher Marty Busch spoke about senior Isaiah Block and the curiosity for knowledge that he often hid behind a tough-guy facade.

“I think he secretly enjoys learning for learning’s sake,” Busch told the audience.

The seniors received their diplomas from Principal Mike Mahaffey. They were congratulated by District 833 Superintendent Keith Jacobus and School Board member Sharon Van Leer.

“We’re the fourth high school,” Mahaffey said. “I’ve been here 28 years. Now we actually have some students where I know their parents because they were my students 18 years ago.”

Students who received their diplomas included: Robert Isaiah Block, Marisol Contreras Barbosa, Tyler J. Deckard, Kalley E. Denzer, Christina M. DeVito, Daniel J. Ehle, David J. Farrell, Martin F. Hernandez, Samnang L. Keo, Brett J. Koshenina, Jordan D. Levie, Austin A. Luhrs, Jennifer E. Martinez, Michael W. Moris, Jonah L. Normandin, Brianna L. Phillips, Ariana J. Pray, Aimee N. Santiago Quintal, Leny K. Santiago Quintal,  Jessica M. Schmidt, Savanna J. Stettner, Michaela J. Viebrock, Anthony C. Vogt and Jhane J. Wilson.

Those who graduated but did not attend included: Adam J. Gleich, Christopher L. Hansen, TreShawn Osborne, Tyler W. Paige and Rick C. Rudich.

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