Southwest Open School held its 2018 graduation Wednesday evening in an intimate ceremony honoring students who have received their diplomas despite hardship.
Fifteen students graduated from SWOS in front of friends, family and community members.
The commencement program opened with a ceremonial performance from the Red Sky Drum Group.
Matt Keefauver, director of SWOS, said he was inspired by the graduates and their support systems.
“I personally am inspired by tonight’s graduates and the hard work that they put into their education these past few years,” Keefauver said. “I am inspired by you, the parents, guardians and community supporters who have guided these students down the pathway to graduation.”
Keefauver also thanked each teacher, board of director, staff and service dog, Olive.
A SWOS graduate and previous president of the charter board, guest speaker Uriah Hubbard, spoke to the students’ perseverance.
He said it was important to him to speak to each of the graduates about their time at SWOS.
“Every graduate I talked to told me one of the biggest reasons they were able to get here was the support, compassion and respect they received from staff and teachers,” Hubbard said.
He asked each graduate about their favorite thing about SWOS, and most said the educational trips the school takes.
“SWOS does not just teach each of these students just what they need to know academically,” Hubbard said. “It teaches them how to learn so even though you guys are graduating and going out into the real world, your education is not over.”
Hubbard also asked the graduates what they would say to students of SWOS who have not graduated yet. The advice that he received was about finishing strong, and focusing on your credits and believing in yourself. “It feels impossible until it happens,” said graduate Adrianna Martinez.
Hubbard closed his speech by telling graduates that the sense of community they found at SWOS can be found in the world.
“I know that it is sort of scary leaving SWOS and going out into the real world. You have all this support here, and maybe you feel like you do not necessarily have that out in the real world,” Hubbard said. “I want to remind you that it is out there. There are people out there that will support you when they see how special you are, and when they see your spark they will want to lift you up. Find those people and be those people.”
Diplomas were given out by Keefauver and Board Director Tamara Hamilton. Students received their diplomas, a flower and the Dr. Seuss book “Oh The Places You’ll Go!”
The school has communities that meet every morning with their teachers and staff. Each group was brought up on stage to be given gag gifts and for teachers to speak to their character and hard work.
The end of the ceremony concluded with a “time-honored tradition” of audience participation. The crowd was allowed a few moments to congratulate the graduates, many through tears.
Specific graduates honored included Alexx Earley, Deanna Hunt, Dane Kirkland and Cerra Maestas, all for concurrent enrollment; and Vansan Vinceti for her internship at The Journal. Earley was awarded a $500 Waste Management scholarship, and Cerra Maestas was awarded Jennifer Chappell’s Just Because Scholarship.