Megan Minson was told she would not be able to graduate with the class of 2017. On Saturday, she gave a speech on behave of her Kennedy High School classmates during commencement. Fighting back tears, Minson thanked the teachers that shaped her high school career, instilled in her life lessons and welcomed her with open arms. Because, that’s Kennedy.
Thirty-one students settled into the new Delight Valley Gymnasium—what will become the permanent home for future Kennedy students beginning next term—in front of friends and family. Kennedy’s class of 2017 worked two jobs, raised children, persevered through hardships and began college and careers armed with GEDs and high school diplomas.
“They’re mechanics and Youtube creators,” Kennedy Principal Mike Ingman told the crowd, “And we couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Kennedy, which recently dropped the “Alternative” from its official name, educates students who thrive outside of the traditional classroom. Students like Minson who’s husband is in the Army and others like Hayden Walker who found Cottage Grove High School counter productive to his learning experience.
Work credits, alternative schedules and programs geared towards GED credits and traditional high school credits are offered throughout the year to students who opt out of Cottage Grove High School.
Like the school itself, Kennedy’s graduation ceremony is unique.
The presentation of the class skips the generic wave toward the crowd and instead focuses on each individual students. Teachers and faculty line up to introduce a handful of students they have had personal interactions with throughout the school year. They speak to the students’ passions and hobbies, their plans and struggles all through tear strained voices and calls for tissue. After a personalized congratulations and a hug, students cross the podium and receive their diplomas.
Saturday’s ceremony also included distribution of scholarships presented by community leaders including South Lane School Board President Sherri Duerst-Higgins who was in attendance with superintendent Krista Parent, board member Tammy Hodgkinson, board member Gary Mort and Kennedy faculty. Thousands of dollars were awarded to Kennedy students from the Cottage Grove Foundation, Masonic Lodge, Board of Realtors, College Night Oregon, South Lane Cooks Association, Kiwanis, Gear Up, Turn Around and OYCC.
To close out a morning dedicated to the unique students that inhabited Kennedy’s home on Taylor Ave. for the last time, there was a song.
While other high school graduates funnel out of their ceremonies to “Pomp and Circumstance,” Kennedy students do it a little differently.
Staff members David Heritage, Danny Henson and Matt Hall took their positions at the head of the gymnasium, instruments in hand and played the students off. Each verse a personalized tribute to the student and the hope that, as Minson urged in her speech, that they would change the world.