Grads come from behind to finish at South Washington County Schools' Alternative Learning CenterTwenty-two students from Park, Woodbury and East Ridge high schools graduated, with many of them planning to attend college.
By: Judy Spooner, South Washington County Bulletin
Justin Lingerfelt fell way behind his classmates in school and nearly gave up hope he would ever finish high school.
“I was so discouraged that I didn’t even want to try,” he said.
But last week, after finishing his high school career at School District 833’s Alternative Learning Center, he said he’s ready for college and plans to become a teacher and return to the center to help other young people succeed.
Lingerfelt was one of 22 students from Park, Woodbury and East Ridge high schools who graduated last week with many of them planning to attend college.
When students are so behind in school that they can’t catch up while attending traditional classes, they can be referred to the ALC but not all of them are accepted after the initial interview.
Classes are smaller and teachers, whom students call by their first names, build close relationships with students to encourage them to earn the diplomas.
At the graduation ceremony, held in the school’s gym at the School District 833 Program Center in Cottage Grove, teachers selected by the students talk about what they appreciated about each student.
Math teacher Charlie Cauthorn said Lingerfelt, who was dressed in a shirt and tie, is smart and has a passion for causes he supports. He also aced the state math test.
Lingerfelt said he wants to teach English, history or science but not math.
“I can do math, but I just don’t like it,” he said.
He could not have achieved his diploma without the ALC, he said, and advises other kids who are behind and failing to give it a try.
“They’ll fall in love with it just like I did,” he said. “We mature a lot faster here.”
Graduate Miranda Bieniek was similarly thankful for her experience.
“I don’t think I would have finished without ALC,” said Bieniek, who spent a year at the school.
Bieniek — described by teachers as having a bubbly personality and enthusiasm for life and animals — plans to attend a technical college so she can work in the veterinary field.
Tamara Peterson is intelligent and organized, according to her teachers, and plans to become a cosmetologist.
“I had a baby and still graduated on time,” she said.
School Principal Mike Mahaffey said graduation is an exciting day, but he told the graduates it’s also “kind of sad because you’re leaving us.” At the end of the ceremony, he thanked the graduates’ parents and friends for supporting them.
Other graduates included: Jon Angelo, Alyssa Arocho, James Aultman, Olivia Gordon, Elena Hernandez, Makayla Hubbard, Jessica Maki, Brooke Menard, Devon Miller, Nicholas Nasseff, Armando Ponce, Kyle Robertson, Donald Schlyer, Robert Stahley, Magdalena Stettner, Rachel Tchida, Mike Vessenmeyer, Ryan Welsch and CJ Wilson.
Others who graduated but did not attend include Joseph Baumgartner, Zuma Clark, Timothy J. Kane, Junior Olu, Montague Ramsey and Duwayne Standberry.