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CK Alternative School sends grads into real world

Central Kitsap Alternative High School isn’t called “alternative” for nothing.

It’s different. And so is its graduation.

Half the graduating class rose to speak June 13 — most of them tearfully. Almost none of them wore cap and gown — but nobody cared. The whole staff stood in a row after diplomas were passed out and got hugs. Lots of hugs. There was better food afterwards than at most graduations. Several of the grads were either pregnant or had toddlers in tow.

About 150 family members, friends, teachers and staff turned out Thursday afternoon at the Fairgrounds to see three dozen-plus grads get their sheepskins. Most of the grads were older than usual — 18-, 19-, 20-years-old. Most of the alternative student chose not to attend CKHS, OHS or Klahowya, and had voluntarily come to CK Alternative — rather than drop out.

“Sixteen years ago I was a teacher here at the Alternative School,” said keynote speaker, Lee Marcum, executive director of secondary teaching and learning. “The program has grown rapidly,” he added with some irony.

Officials said about 70 grads didn’t show, because they’d already left earlier in the year to work or go on to higher education.

Marcum cleared his throat, then, sotto voce, said “I thought a lot about what to say here today....” Then more audibly he shrugged his shoulders and said: “They’ve taken the road less traveled.”

For which he got a laugh from all.

Marcum talked of challenges overcome and how “at times it seemed this day would never come.”

Barbara Zawlocki, a former Alternative School graduate, also spoke. She told of how she just earned her bachelor’s in animal science and her husband had just earned his bachelor’s in engineering. The couple have two kids and another on the way. She was pregnant while at the Alternative School.

“If I can do it, any of you guys can,” she said to the graduates.

Grad Tracy Ireland got up to the podium and thanked one of his favorite teachers just for his “being able to read” now. Grad Gabe Guttmann said “I look at us, children, finally graduating and becoming adults.” Another grad said “I used to think Alternative was for drop-outs or those who couldn’t hack it ... now my sister’s here, and she couldn’t be in better hands.”

Student after student got up and told teachers and support staff “You pushed me when I needed it” or “You guys really made an impact” or “I’ve never made so many friends.”

Many donated scholarships were handed out in surprising amounts, ranging from $500 to $5,000 and more.

Cakes and other treats were available after the early afternoon graduation ceremony, held in the Presidents’ Hall. Many stayed around to chat and eat and generally turn the graduation into a party that resembled a family reunion.

CK School District speakers included Robert Morton, Alternative High School co-coordinator; Robert Vandenburgh, School Board president; and district Superintendent Dr. Catherine Davidson. The national organization “Stand Up for Kids” was present and awarded many scholarships. Steve McAboy and Robert Morton distributed certificates of graduation. The Rotary as well as many private citizens supported the graduation.

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