Most high schools culminate the school year with a graduation and Heritage was among those with students who donned caps and gowns for this rite of passage.
Heritage used a new format for their April graduation, following the model of regular high schools, and held it in their state-of-the-art performing arts center with more than 250 in attendance.
“In the past we held a ceremony for each student,” said Jason Wright, director of education. “This time we took a more traditional route – we had the whole group of graduating students in a single, inspirational ceremony.”
Awards for the eight graduating students were handed out by several key staff members – Jerry Spanos who founded Heritage; Keven Downs, executive director; Kevin Curtis, COO and Jason. All students wore matching caps and gowns in the school’s colors of blue and gold and were presented to the rest of the student body, their parents, teachers and therapists.
“Most of the students who graduated gave talks that inspired the other students,” Jason said. “They spoke of the importance of working on academia, getting good grades and going to college. It was poignant mostly for the boys. It was inspiring to see eight of their fellow students doing well, moving on to better things, to a better future.”
Parents, therapists and representatives from the graduates’ Heritage homes were also invited to speak.
“It lasted just over an hour,” Jason said. “There was a great atmosphere there. This was a great day overall for staff and good for teachers as well. They are at ground zero working with these students. It was good to see the results of their hard work, to see them graduating – it inspired them as well.”
Joni Reynolds, assistant education director, said a lot of work was done beforehand, not just by the students but by others who were instrumental in making sure all details leading up to graduation were addressed.
Joni said she felt the greatest success of the day was when all graduates had received their diplomas and stood on stage together.
“They looked very excited and proud of themselves,” she said. “It was the culmination of a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get them there.”
Jason said parents were excited and emotional about the event.
“Most parents were in tears just because of the success of their child,” he said. “One parent said Heritage is such a great place and has done wonderful things, that Heritage truly saved their child’s life.”
By Kaye Nelson