They didn’t wear caps and gowns. They wore clothes they were comfortable in, clothes that defined them, each one different, each one themselves. Five Chinook graduates squeezed onto the trad grad couch. The girls were already weepy and the boys somber.
It was a huge day for the Chinook senior, most of them having thought at one time they would never see this day happen — the graduation thing. For various reasons they struggled with regular curriculum classes, but thrived in the made-to-order alternative school on Barker shores. One of the seniors, Alexis Skinner, is the first person in her family to graduate from high school; and for that, she received a standing ovation.
The 2013 Chinook class is small in number but large in milestones as they overcame each challenge. Their graduation is the culmination of a process that only teamwork between teachers and students made possible.
On Friday morning, May 17, Alexis Skinner, Oliver Zahn, Kelsey Andros, Skylar Sly-Wilson and Jasmine Koromzay received their diploma and their plant from Chinook. Most everybody they had to thank was in the room.
TEENS, Inc., Executive Director Stephen LeFaiver greeted the crowd saying the students had clawed, kicked and mowed down the obstacles that blocked their way. He introduced the guest speaker, Silas Titus, who graduated from Chinook in 2007 and has since graduated from the University of Colorado with a degree in ecology and evolutionary biology. Titus has also produced a hip-hop CD and excels in martial arts. “He is a compassionate, sincere human being,” said LeFaiver.
Titus began his speech with a discussion of slime mold and how the only way it survives is by support of others like it. The cells are isolated, alone but exist from beam to beam in connectiveness, Kevin Bacon’s six degrees of separation. “The more you reach out, the more successful you will be,” said Titus. “The success of one depends on the success of each other. You are like slime mold and Kevin Bacon.”
He advised the students that if they work with their peers, they will able to accomplish things they could not accomplish on their own. The chinook teachers then spoke of the graduates individually.
Oliver Zahn was praised for his courage to demonstrate emotion and to be unconformtingly happy. He was described as the person who could do “Romeo and Juliet” by himself.
Kelsey Andros is an inspired, creative person who came into herself. She has been accepted into Colorado State University and CU, and is stunning in her artistic and musical talent.
Alexis Skinner came to Chinook needing a ton of credits to graduate, and she earned a ton. She has a spunky, sassy smile and is kind and gentle to all she meets.
Jasmine Koromzay needed a plan to graduate, and she came up with one and accomplished it. She has unfiltered nature, considers what she fights for and is all about fairness and recognizing when she is wrong.
Skylar Sly-Wilson discussed other dimensions. He is highly intelligent and willing to be patient in conversations. He is aware of the politics and looks at all sides of a situation. He has spent three years looking beyond the mundane and learning that the dots don’t always have to connect.
Following the presentation of the graduates, the students and their families shared celebratory cake and conversation.