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Alternative high school programs taught graduates to move forward

Students from Glendale's trio of alternative campuses graduate in one ceremony.

June 14, 2012|By Megan O'Neil, megan.oneil@latimes.com
  • Krystal Griffin gets a kiss from her boyfriend, Oscar Hernandez, after the Re-connectEd Glendale graduation at the First United Methodist Church Carlson Fellowship Hall.
Krystal Griffin gets a kiss from her boyfriend, Oscar… (Raul Roa / Staff…)

Their course of study might have been a bit unorthodox, but the graduates of Glendale Unified's alternative education programs Thursday had all the trimmings and trappings of a traditional commencement ceremony.

“It is amazing,” said Verdugo Academy graduate Anni Avanesyan, 17, as she lined up in her cap and gown. “Finally, I am finished. I can say I have my high school diploma.”

The celebration at First United Methodist Church in Glendale was a three-way event, featuring the district's alternative high school programs. In addition to Verdugo Academy, they include Re-ConnectEd Glendale and Daily High School.

All three are run out of the Daily High campus, and are designed to accommodate students for whom a traditional high school setting is not a good fit. Some are pursing their diplomas while balancing extraordinary family obligations, others are parenting young children, and many are working.

This year, a total of 104 students received their diplomas through the alternative programs, Daily High School Principal Chris Coulter said, with 68 present at the ceremony Thursday.

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Andy Camacho, 17, attended Hoover High School for 3 1/2 years before completing his credits with Verdugo Academy, which offers students a flexible course of study in which they meet with teachers once a week.

“That made more time for jobs and getting applications done and all that. It was almost like a head-start to college because it focused on putting a lot of work on the students at home,” said Andy, who wants to study astronomy.

The good-natured advice the graduates doled out to incoming freshman — including “don't get pregnant,” “don't ditch class” and “do it right the first time” — spoke to their own high school challenges.

They also recounted the support they received from family members and teachers.

“Daily and its wonderful staff is the reason I am on this stage today,” Nazaneen Kouzoukian said in addressing the audience at commencement. “They taught me that to get forward in life, all I had to do was just believe and be me. Each staff member brought this much-broken-down student hope.”

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